Nov 14, 2017

IT’IS Receives 5-Year NIH Award to Build an Integrated Simulation Platform for the Neuroscience World

Success for the IT’IS Foundation and the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (D-ITET) of the ETH Zurich: the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) have selected IT’IS to lead the Modeling and Simulation Core (SIM-CORE) of their Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) program! IT’IS will be the central hub for hosting and connecting simulations across the whole SPARC community. The vision is to create and maintain a unique neurosimulation platform to enable and accelerate the development of electroceuticals and neuroprosthetics that shall become the worldwide center of neurosimulations.

The SIM-CORE, named o2S2PARCOpen Online Simulations for Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions – is one of the three integrative cores of the SPARC program’s Data Resource Center (DRC). The aim of o2S2PARC is to establish a comprehensive, freely accessible, intuitive, and interactive online platform for simulating peripheral nerve system neuromodulation/ stimulation and its impact on organ physiology in a precise and predictive manner. To achieve this, the platform will comprise both state-of-the art and highly detailed animal and human anatomical models with realistic tissue property distributions that make it possible to perform simulations ranging from the molecular scale up to the complexity of the human body.

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o2S2PARC will provide users with an interactive approach to effectively develop, extend, validate, certify, document, store, share, and apply models, explore the impact of stimulation parameters, and create predictive, multi-scale, multi-physics models for a wide range of scenarios. One of the core elements of the platform is a set of novel neuro- and physiology-functionalized human and animal anatomical models (called NEUROCOUPLE and NEUROFAUNA, respectively). The models will allow simulation of in vivo fields generated by implanted or external stimulators, elucidation of the resulting neuromodulations, and assessment of the changes induced in organ physiology.

The powerful and flexible simulation platform, developed according to open-source philosophy, will enable users to (1) connect existing and/or novel computational (in silico) models to perform studies, (2) easily integrate new structures (e.g., nerve microstructure) into the anatomical models, and (3) generate new computational services, simulation studies, and anatomical models that can be shared with other users and researchers according to project-specific requirements.

The development and implementation of the platform is anticipated to run for five years with a budget of US$10 million. Additional funds will be made available to maintain the platform afterwards. The kick-off meeting will be held mid-November in Washington DC.

About the SPARC (Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions) Program

o2S2PARC is part of the NIH Common Fund’s SPARC program. The program focuses on increasing the understanding of peripheral nerves and how their electrical signals control internal organ function, with a view to advance neuromodulation therapies in order to make treatments more effective. It is structured as a consortium and consists of four components:

  • SPARC 1: Anatomical and Functional Mapping of the Innervation of Major Internal Organs
  • SPARC 2: Next Generation Tools and Technologies
  • SPARC 3: Use of Existing Market-Approved Technology for New Market Indications
  • SPARC 4: Data Resource Center (Data Coordination, Mapping, and Modeling)

The SPARC DRC serves as a central sharing hub for the research, engineering, and clinical communities, disseminating knowledge and tools to advance neuromodulation targeting organs or organ systems. It is composed of (i) the Data Coordination Core (DAT-CORE, Dr. Joost Wagenaar Blackfynn, Inc., Philadelphia, USA) to store, organize, manage, and track access to data and resources generated by SPARC; (ii) the Map Synthesis Core (MAP-CORE, Prof. Peter Hunter, University of Auckland, New Zealand) to build interactive modular, continually updated visualizations of nerve-organ anatomy and function; and (iii) the Modeling and Simulation Core (SIM-CORE (or o2S2PARC), Prof Niels Kuster, IT’IS Foundation, Switzerland) to develop an online framework capable of hosting and connecting simulations to create predictive, multiscale, multiphysics models spanning from modulation sources acting at feasible access points to organ functional responses.

More information about the SPARC consortium can be found here.


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