‘Fruit Fly Observatory’ Wins the 1st Phase of the Open Science Prize

The proposal entitled ‘Fruit Fly Observatory’, put forward by an international team including researchers from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Sheffield, has been selected out of nearly 100 submissions as a one of the six winners in the first Phase of the Open Science Prize Challenge. The Prize finalists will be announced publicly today at the 7th Health Datapalooza in Washington DC.

The team proposes to develop NeuroArch, an open graph database platform to store and process all connected data related to the neural circuits of the fly brain including location, morphology, connectivity and biophysical properties of every neuron of the adult fruit fly brain. This will enable the automatic generation of alternative models of the fly brain that can be simulated efficiently using multiple Graphics Processing Units in order to help elucidate the mechanisms of human neurological disorders and to help identify drug targets.


We are really pleased and excited to be able to contribute, alongside our research collaborators from Columbia University in US and the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, to the development of this highly innovative platform and to compete for this prestigious prize.

Professor Daniel Coca, UK team leader

The Open Science Prize is a partnership between the Wellcome Trust, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to unleash the power of open content and data to advance biomedical research and its application for health benefit.

Associate Director for Data Science National Institute of Health, Philip Bourne, Director of Strategy at the Wellcome Trust, Clare Matterson and Senior Science Operations Officer at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Bodo Stern, commented:

“We had nearly 100 submissions, and are pleased with both the calibre and research value of our six winning applications.”

As a Phase I winner, the ACSE-led UK team will share the $80,000 prize offered to develop a prototype and compete for the Phase II prize of $230,000.

Congratulations to Daniel Coca, Carlos Luna Ortiz, Adam Tomkins, Dorian Florescu (ACSE) and Paul Richmond (Computer Science) on their achievement.