Apr 27, 2020

Successful 2020 SPARC Ideas Lab

Interactive Five-Day SPARC Ideas Lab “sparks” New Ideas for Predictive Modeling to Inform Development of Bioelectronic Medicine Therapies

From April 20 – 24, 2020, the SPARC Ideas Lab took place, hosted by the IT’IS Foundation, with funding from and in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund’s Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) program.

The SPARC program aims to transform our understanding of nerve-organ interactions with the intent of advancing bioelectronic medicine towards treatments that change lives. As part of the Data and Resource Center (DRC) of the program, IT'IS is developing the o2S2PARC platform – a unique, open, online-accessible platform that hosts all computational models developed by SPARC teams and allows the sharing, execution, and coupling of these models to facilitate in silico studies.

The aim of the SPARC Ideas Lab was to bridge the gap between experimental data collection in SPARC and the creation of computational models of organ physiology and autonomic control. While originally planned as face-to-face meeting in Washington DC, USA, the meeting had to be converted into a virtual workshop in consequence of the global shut down of travel due to COVID-19. However, this did not stop the workshop from being a great success.

Thirty interdisciplinary experts from various backgrounds, including data scientists, mathematical modelers, engineers, experimental scientists and clinicians, that were supported by the facilitator and mentors, made the multiday event an energizing, high-quality scientific working experience.

The mentor team was a diverse group of experts on various dimensions of the problem, that contributed by asking questions, highlighting ideas that seem exciting, making connections between participants and to the wider body of knowledge. Participants interacted in vivid discussions to stimulate thought, obtain guidance, and jump-start the creation of tools and approaches that bridge the gap in the field.

The SPARC Ideas Lab resulted in more than 160 ideas being collected and in the preparation of eight pre-proposals, which are likely to be submitted to the FOA (OTA-20-004: Targeted Needs to Achieve SPARC Program Goals).