Physiomics signs Memorandum of Understanding with Swansea University

Oxford 17 December 2007Physiomics plc, the Oxford, United Kingdom-based systems biology company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Institute of Life Science of Swansea University (ILS), which will provide mutual benefits. Under the terms of the MOU, Physiomics will have access to the supercomputer "Blue C", one of the most powerful computers in the world dedicated to Life Science and is the result of a collaboration between the University, the Welsh Assembly Government and computer giant IBM. This will reinforce Physiomics' modelling framework and help to address the ever increasing computing requirements in the field of System Biology.


Collaborative research programmes will be set up with the oncology research groups at the ILS, with the first collaboration already agreed with the group of Dr. Shareen Doak. These programmes will focus on the effect of anticancer drugs and Physiomics will contribute with its modelling expertise in biological systems performing simulations of mutual interest.

Dr. Christophe Chassagnole, COO of Physiomics, stated: "Physiomics has continued to develop its technology to the point where more powerful computer facilities were required. The team has already run some pilot studies using the ILS 'Blue C' supercomputer and have demonstrated its potential to reduce tasks that would take many hours to complete, to just a couple of minutes. As well the research collaborations with the ILS' research teams will give us access to invaluable expertise and experimental data in the oncology field."

David Lewis, Director of the Blue C facility at Swansea University's ILS, stated: "We are delighted to enter a very constructive Collaborative Research agreement with Physiomics. Our ILS project is funded - in part - by European Union Structural Funds, which are focussed on promoting Economic Development in West Wales and the Valleys. Swansea University's School of Medicine, and the Institute of Life Science, plays a key role: creating the core of a 'Life Sciences cluster' of Academic Research, together with scientific collaborations with high-tech companies - both small and large - in this field. We see our agreement with Physiomics as being a very visible proof-point of our ability to reach out into the private sector, to find partners and collaborators, together with whom we can push forward the frontiers of medical science. Supercomputing plays a key role, and we look forward to working closely with Physiomics' scientists."

Physiomics plc is a computational systems biology services company applying simulations of cell behaviour to drug development to reduce the high attrition rates of clinical trials. As 80-90 percent of all clinical drug candidates fail to reach the market, estimates show that an overall ten percent improvement in success rates could reduce the cost of one drug's development by as much as $242 million, from the current estimate of around $800 million.

Physiomics develops computational systems biology models to predict and understand cancer drug efficacy from pre-clinical research to clinical development. Physiomics has created detailed mathematical models incorporating most important molecular events taking place during the human cell cycle and apoptosis processes. Physiomics developed SystemCell technology, a multi-cellular environment software, which enables the simulation of population of "virtual cells".

Born out of the success of the School of Medicine at Swansea University, the Institute of Life Science is both a concept and a physical space. Its aim is the application of interdisciplinary science to health and medicine and the coupling of medical advance with economic development. With this in mind, the ILS marks the beginning of great new things for Wales's innovative researchers and business developers alike.

Life science is recognised as one of the most fertile sources of technology transfer in the world, giving the ILS the potential to create significant economic wealth. Opportunities are arising from areas such as research collaboration, intellectual property licensing, spin-out companies and inward investment and, in readiness for these, the ILS is well equipped. With state-of-the-art laboratories as well as a dedicated Business Development Centre, complete with Business Incubation Suites and a specialist external relations team, the focus is on building long-term commercial-academic links and making first-class medical progress.

Research at the ILS investigates all aspects of the science of life, from the fundamental molecular characteristics of diseases and treatments through to health care delivery and the efficient practice of medicine. Pioneers in laboratory-based bio-medical research work together with colleagues in health services and public health research on complex health issues that have both biological and social elements, such as diabetes and mental health disorders, and the outcome of these collaborations is a more rounded understanding of human health.

The emphasis at the ILS is high quality inter- and multi-disciplinary research. The work reflects the post-genomic era, in which scientists have a near complete picture of the human genome at hand and can start collaborating in order to identify the complex genetic background of many diseases and start improving treatments. It is also an era of increasing health care delivery challenges, such as hospital-acquired infections and insufficient data collation. The ILS is responding to these challenges and many others with innovative zeal, focusing on discovering radical ways to treat disease and deliver health care. In short, it is taking medical advances from the laboratory into hospitals, surgeries and homes.

As well as traditional research, the ILS and Swansea University also provide a unique infrastructure for computational biology. This is centred on the Blue C supercomputer, one of the very few supercomputers in the world dedicated to life science research, which has been given a permanent home at the university as part of a high profile collaboration with IBM. The agreement is part of IBM's continued commitment to the health care and life science sectors and it is also a part of the company's strategy of forging relationships with some of the world's leading research organisations.

The computer can perform calculations that would take hours or even days on an existing computer - its current average speed is 2.7 teraflops (this is an industry-recognised measure of high performance). The use of supercomputing to drive forward medical treatment is at the forefront of both genetic and molecular laboratory-based research and it is also revolutionising community-based healthcare studies by bringing together disparate sets of information on patients and trends. By bringing these aspects together, supercomputing will one day enable doctors to tailor treatment individually to each patient's needs.

More news about the Swansea University Life Science activities is available in the VMW February 2007 article New centre for research into health information at Swansea University in Wales. More Physiomics company news can be found in the VMW November 2005 article Physiomics introduces major technical innovation in drug and tumour modelling.

Leslie Versweyveld

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