Here you can find the report on The 4th Global COE International Symposium on Physiome and Systems Biology for Integrated Life Sciences and Predictive Medicine, made by the Executive Director of the VPH Institute, Prof Marco Viceconti.
From November 21st to November 23rd, 2011 I attended the 4th Global COE Symposium in Osaka, Japan. This was the third time I was invited to attend this event. The first was in Osaka in 2007 and the second was in Kyoto on 2009.
The first day after the ritual greetings and the formal opening, we had talk fromJim Bassingthwaighteand Mike Hucka on the tools and standards they are developing, JSIM and SBML.
Then I gave an update on the European Virtual Physiological Human initiative, which was very well accepted by all participants to the conference. Many, who attended the 2007 meeting where we presented the original STEP roadmap, were impressed by how big and articulated the VPH initiative has become in these four years.
After my talk,Yoon Hyuk Kimgave an update on the Virtual Physiological Korean Spine project, which is explicitly inspired to the European VPH, and then Shiro Usui gave an update on the neuroinformatics Japan node. We found interesting to see how in Japan neuroinformatics is perceived part of the physiome-systems biology community, and not as in Europe, a separate domain, frequently self-referential. This might not incidental: western cultures have been dominated by the Platonic dualism between body and mind, whereas eastern cultures traditionally have a more holistic conception of life. Still, this is a lesson we must learn from our Japanese colleagues.
Then I had the pleasure to chair and introduce the next keynote speakerHiroaki Kitano. Hiroaki is one of the rising stars of systems biology in Japan and also internationally, but his perspective is much broader than the classic “molecular systems biology” many in Europe are still focusing on. Hiroaki introduced a new initiative, calledGaruda Alliance, that aims to standardize not only the models description (a la SBML or CellML) but also the architecture of the applications that elaborate these models, so that can be extended by additional modules developed by third parties. The motto (Garuda: the way biology connects) is very good! And the initiative is interesting, need to be monitored closely.
The second day the event became more specialized. We had sessions on Drug design, delivery and metabolism; on the IT infrastructures for Physiome (here it was a pity that neither P-Medicine nor VPH-Share were represented): cardiovascular modelling. At the end of the second dayNicolas Smith(King's College London and Eu-Heart project) andSeiryo Sugiura(University of Tokyo) battled to the palm of the most advanced cardiac modelling project of the world. My impression, as a naïf spectator, is that Tokyo approach is more advanced in term of fundamental science, whereas the work of Nick Smith is much closer to the clinical application; so we can call it a tie.
The last day was for us bone people. First a session on dentistry and orthodontics, and then one on musculoskeletal modelling, separated by a session of vocal and respiratory modelling, whereRod Smallwoodpresented the AirProm VPH project. In the musculoskeletal session I presented some of the results of the VPHOP project, which were welcomed with great interest and appreciation by the audience.
I could tell you about the incredibly good food, the excellent hospitality, or of the battle against jet lag (who did not take a quick nap when the lights dimmed raise his hand), but I would like to conclude this brief report by acknowledging the structuring role that this biennial symposium had on the world physiome/VPH initiative. At the 2007 meeting we presented this grand vision of the VPH, in 2009 we launched some new concepts that have all now been picked up, not necessarily in Europe (see the Virtual Physiological Rat project recently funded in USA). In 2011, we presented the first results, the low hanging fruits that VPH had promised. Every time, the GCOE symposium was the event were it was possible to measure the development of our initiative with those in Japan, United States, and in the many other countries such as Korea that in the last years have developed equally ambitious programs.
In this sense, the GCOE Series was seminal for the establishment of a worldwide community around the vision of the human Physiome. We hope that this worldwide community will now find its home in the new International Physiome / VPH workgroup chaired by Peter Hunter that the VPH Institute will host. However, we also hope that the new initiatives starting in Japan will include a prosecution of this symposium series, possibly interwoven by the VPH conferences series, which after the first issue in 2010, will meet in London next year for VPH2012.
To conclude, I would like to thank our Japanese colleague for the invitation and the proverbial hospitality to what has been in these six years probably the most important event for the Physiome/VPH community worldwide. Arigato Gozaimasu, or (I hope is correct) ありがとうございます。.
Prof. Marco Viceconti
University of Sheffield, UK
Executive Director of the VPH Institute for Integrative Biomedical Research.