Spin out: SimOmics
28 Oct 2015
Electronics and immunology research might not be a traditional pairing. However, computing advances and new modelling techniques are increasingly offering cost and time-effective ways to explore the mechanics of biological systems.
SimOmics, formed in June 2014, results from more than seven years’ work at the University of York by Professor Jon Timmis, Professor of Intelligent and Adaptive Systems in the university’s electronics department and MRC-funded Senior Lecturer in Immunology, Dr Mark Coles. The company has developed tools to support computer models that predict the effects of potential drugs and the immune system’s response. By increasing the use of computer simulations, SimOmics aims to reduce the need for animal and patient trials and enable manufacturers to focus on the products most likely to succeed.
This has led to us forming both the York Computational Immunology Laboratory (which includes investigators from the Centre for Immunology and Infection, Electronics, Computer Science and Mathematics departments) and the spin out company SimOmics,” said Dr Coles.
The researchers had previously developed a computer model of pre-natal lymphoid tissue formation. This tissue, which includes white blood cells, helps the body mount an immune response and the model was designed to help understand the results of laboratory experimentation. They tracked cell behaviour and calculated cell responses. The model simulates the three cell populations known to be involved in lymphoid tissue development and their behaviour, dependent on the current state of the cell and the cell's location. Using this model, the researchers were able to identify key pathways in lymphoid tissue formation and suggest how such pathways could be investigated in the laboratory.
SimOmics recently released its Evidence Bioscience platform, which enables users to link primary data sources to simulations. The company is currently applying for grants to further develop this core product.
In 2014 the company was part of a multi-sector team securing almost £1m from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)-sponsored CRACK-IT programme. This will fund the Phase 2 development of a computer-based “virtual laboratory” to aid the search for new treatments for leishmaniasis, a worldwide parasitic disease. The computer model will help to predict the effectiveness of different drugs, vaccines and other treatments. Using this technology is expected to significantly reduce the number of rodents needed for pre-clinical drug and vaccine development — a typical rodent study for new antibiotics or vaccines might involve up to 100 animals per candidate drug.
Project reference number: G0601156