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Apr 27, 2010

The European Virtual Physiological Human Institute

By Ilaria Masinara

To provide strong support for both the European Union Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) research initiative and the global “Physiome” community, the process to establish a European VPH Institute has now officially started.

The VPH initiative is part of the worldwide public domain effort to provide a computational framework for understanding human physiology. It aims to develop integrative models at all levels of biological organisation, from genes to the whole organism via gene regulatory networks, protein pathways, integrative cell function, and tissue and whole organ structure/function relations. Through its 7th Framework Research Programme (FP7), the European Commission has initiated and facilitate such research.

The idea to establish a VPH Institute dates back to the STEP VPH Research roadmap where it was suggested to establish a European Institute dedicated entirely to the Virtual Physiological Human (VPH). This idea has been received overwhelmingly positive reaction by the research community, with nearly 300 signatures from over 30 countries. The Pro Tempore Board of Directors has now formally entered the formation process, which should be completed before the end of 2010.

The scope of the European Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) Institute for Biomedical Integrative Research will be to sustain the synergistic coordination of all stakeholders’ efforts towards the common goal of developing an integrative biomedical science and technology that makes practically possible, effective, sustainable and ethical the integration of multiple domains (specifically, Physiome, System Biology, the Virtual physiological Human, Personal Health System, Biomedical Informatics, Life Science e-Infrastructures and System Pharmacology). This would be a huge challenge that, if met, will have a tremendous impact on citizens’ life, and on the European and international economy. The VPH Institute will act in the following contexts:

* Provide a strategic think-tank capable of conducting road mapping exercises, and of developing strategic recommendations for the European Research System around the concept of integrative biomedicine;
* Support for the standardisation process to ensure interoperability of integrative technologies and the integrability of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom captured in digital format;
* Foster the collaborative development, assessment, deployment and maintenance of tools, services, and methods of biomedical integrative research and clinical practice;
* Manage, directly or through its member organizations, shared infrastructures to support the integrative approach in research and clinical practice. This includes repositories of data and models, benchmark collections, infrastructures for the collaborative development;
* Conduct, under the mandate of governmental agencies and research funding charities, studies to assess the status, the level of adoption, and the impact of integrative methods and technologies;
* Organise actions for positive lobbying and public information around the concept of integrative medicine;
* Provide to the heterogeneous collection of stakeholders that are involved with research, technological development, and clinical practice, a single voice for the citizens of Europe, their elected representatives, and any other institutional subject that can sustain the development, assessment and deployment of the integrative biomedicine vision.