Today might have been nothing but blue skies and sunshine, but there was a brainstorm rolling in across Bristol as we kicked off the first of two days of our group meeting at the Wills Memorial Building. Members from all across the Europe (UK, Serbia, Finland, Spain, Poland, Australia) gathered together to push the ideas of EVO-NANO along with face-to-face discussions and suggestions.
The first day was bookmarked for a full-on exploration of how the computational side of the project is looking, and where it will be headed down the road. Yours truly was in the centre of it all trying his best to follow along with all the maths and algorithms. Suffice to say, the ways that cellular interactions with nanoparticles were being simulated had an issue with speed and parallelization, and that’s where the bespoke coding package comes in.
Building on the STEPS package, the model designed by Namid Shatil simulates nanoparticle and cell interactions using a reaction-diffusion simulation which combines with spatial meshes that describes a section of the tumour. The inclusion of spatial aspects allow for more accurate models that capture the effect of specific nanoparticle parameters such as size, charge and coating. These parameters are fine-tuned to find the optimum cancer treatment and plugged back into the software cycle to further improve the whole platform.
The day really picked up once the whiteboard was brought into play, where the software hierarchy was mapped out in its entirety. Each block of software discussed relates to a different aspect of the EVO-NANO pipeline, combining the generation of a virtual tumour, the interaction of nanoparticles with sections of the tumour, and the binding affinity between particles and the cancer surface. Each of these blocks are amenable to optimization using bespoke evolutionary algorithms, allowing for specific nanoparticle designs tailor-made for realistic biological settings.
Ending off the day with a dinner at Browns, the group broke the serious air with some very enjoyable food, wine and conversation about anything else. Topics ranged from our homelands, to lossless music setups, to the Great Emu War of the Australian 1930’s (R.I.P. emus).