Virtual physiological human project transcends sci fi and will transform healthcare

• Computer simulated model of human body will enable simulation of the effects of drugs and treatments on the human body
• New technology will lead to a better healthcare system, offering personalised care solutions

An Institute founded one year ago at the University of Sheffield is showcasing today (8 May 2014) the first phase of technology that will lead to the creation of a virtual human body and revolutionise global healthcare.

InsigneoThe Insigneo Institute at the University of Sheffield has the objective of creating an in silico (computer simulated) replica of the human body that will enable the virtual testing of bespoke treatments. When complete, the Virtual Physiological Human will transform the economics and practicalities of modern medical treatment and medical research.

The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) programme is backed by European Commission funding. Since 2007, approaching €220 million of EC funding has been targeted at collaborative in silico projects across Europe.

The VPH will enable collaborative investigation of the human body as a single complex system using integrated computer models of the mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of a living human body. The VPH will eventually lead to a better healthcare system, offering personalised care solutions, a more holistic approach to medicine and a preventative approach to treatment of disease. In time it will lead to treatment that sees the body as a single multi organ system rather than as a collection of individual organs.

Observations made in laboratories, hospitals and the field anywhere in the world will be collected, catalogued, organised, shared and combined within the VPH. Experts will be able to analyse these observations collaboratively and develop systemic hypotheses, leveraging knowledge across multiple scientific disciplines.

The showcase today (8 May 2014) will feature a series of talks and demonstrations that chart progress to date, including:

• A presentation on imaging and computational modelling of pulmonary disease
• A look at the emerging potential of the 21st century laboratory
• A presentation on VIRTUheart, which will transform the assessment and management of coronary artery disease
• A presentation on how the VPH will improve the prediction of fracture risk; and,
• A presentation on virtual, physiological and computational neuromuscular models for the predictive treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

"What we’re working on here will be vital to the future of healthcare," said Dr Keith McCormack, who leads business development at the Institute. "Pressures are mounting on health and treatment resources worldwide. Candidly, without in silico medicine, organisations like the NHS will be unable to cope with demand. The Virtual Physiological Human will act as a software-based laboratory for experimentation and treatment that will save huge amounts of time and money and lead to vastly superior treatment outcomes."

The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine is a collaborative initiative between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is a multi-disciplinary institute with a membership of more than 120 academics and clinicians who are collaborating to develop computer simulations of the human body and its disease processes. These will be amalgamated eventually to create a holistic in silico model that will be used directly in clinical practice to improve diagnosis and treatment. When complete, the virtual human will be the most sophisticated application of computing technology in healthcare. Sheffield is the UK’s main centre for this work.

Additional information

Insigneo Institute for in silico medicine

The University of Sheffield

With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2011 it was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Shemina Davis
Media Relations Manager
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 5339