Spotlight on the Bio4Comp Project

Spotlight on the Bio4Comp Project

bioforcomplogoSince the completion of the Human Genome Project at the dawn of the 21st century, significant advancements have been made in biocomputational technology. The role of personalized medicine is expected to increase as scientists gain a greater understanding of our DNA and the link between genetics and disease.The Bio4Comp research project is an EU initiative aimed at building a revolutionary new biocomputer that is safe, accurate, and efficient. Experts believe this next-generation biocomputer may outperform quantum computing in the near future.

Who is responsible for Bio4Comp?

The EU launched the five-year Bio4Comp research program as part of the Horizon 2020 commission at a cost of some 6.1 million euros.Horizon 2020 is a 77 billion euro EU initiative commissioned to innovate and improve the energy and transport sectors within the European Union. Its initiatives include research into the production of low carbon energy, green vehicles, and next-generation batteries. Bio4Comp is a collaboration between the following institutions:

  • Lund University
  • Linnaeus University
  • Bar Ilan University
  • Technische Universität Dresden
  • Molecular Sense Ltd
  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Experts contributing to the initiative include:

  • Professor Jerzy J. Langer of the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland
  • Professor Adam Micolich of Australia’s University of New South Wales
  • Professor Dan V. Nicolau of McGill University, Canada
  • Boyan Yordanov of Microsoft Research Ltd., United Kingdom
  • Dan Nicolau of Australia’s Queensland University of Technology

What is a biocomputer?

A biocomputer uses a system of organic molecules, such as proteins and DNA, to form complex calculations involving the processing, storage, and retrieval of data. A computer is by definition anything that processes data and performs calculations, using logic gates to turn input into output. Computers don’t have to be made from silicon. Indeed, the human brain is arguably one of the most complex computers in the world. Biocomputers are essentially a form of artificial intelligence, but instead of using a manmade host to carry out computational processes, biocomputers consist of living cells.

In a recent study, a team of scientists effectively created microscopic biocomputers by using mammalian DNA cells to complete complex computations. Researchers hope that in creating this genetic circuitry, they will unravel the symptoms and causes of a range of serious diseases.

The concept was initially proposed by Tom Knight of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The goal of Bio4Comp is to develop the capabilities of today’s biocomputers, which remain somewhat limited in technological terms in comparison with commercial non-biocomputer models.



The rise of biocomputing in modern medicine

Computational medicine not only helps physicians to accurately diagnose disease, but it prescribes the most effective form of treatment. This rapidly growing scientific field incorporates sophisticated software and computer models that map the way diseases develop. This unprecedented overview offers medical practitioners a vital understanding of disease patterns, enabling them to predict disease behavior and make interventions, stopping the disease in its tracks. Scientists are increasingly looking to computational medicine in their search for a cure for life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and other difficult-to-treat illnesses.

Technological advancements in the field have reduced research costs, making computational medicine one of the fastest-growing sectors of medical science. Researchers use digital tools to unravel complex mysteries associated with DNA and disease. Today, a vast new community of experts is joining the field, bringing a fresh perspective and thinking to diagnosis and treatment. Technological advancements have provided scientists with a much clearer understanding of what causes disease, enabling them to develop new and innovative ways to tackle it.


The key objectives of Bio4Comp

The main goals of this international research program are to improve the efficiency, safety, and scope of biocomputers, effectively producing a next-generation biocomputer with lower energy consumption and faster processing speed. These biocomputers solve complex mathematical problems by harnessing biomolecular power. Researchers hope to utilize the 6.1 million in euro funding to improve and modify motor proteins, facilitating their integration into nanodevices. Researchers at Bio4Comp submit that next-generation biocomputers could overcome the limitations of quantum computing by integrating DNA and microfluidics-based computation.



Microsoft’s bid to find a cure for cancer in the next 10 years

Microsoft’s involvement in the Bio4Comp initiative comes in the wake of the company’s pledge to “solve” cancer in the next 10 years. The company announced in 2016 that it hopes to find a cure for illness by tackling the disease as if it were a computer virus. Microsoft experts claim that they are developing the technology to “reprogram” the human body to essentially restore it to a healthy state. The company has been working on its own biocomputer program for some time now, with the ultimate goal of turning cells into living computers and reprogramming them to treat diseases like cancer. Microsoft’s advanced computing research is already being used to test the efficacy of certain cancer treatments. The team of experts involved hopes to develop sophisticated machine-learning technologies to read vast amounts of cancer research data, enabling these biocomputers to not only understand disease, but to treat and cure it.

Dr. Harry Stylli is a healthcare investor and entrepreneur. In his role as chair at OncoCellMDx, Dr. Harry Stylli strives to help physicians not only identify signatures of disease, but also gather crucial information about a cancer’s aggressiveness and staging. Dr. Harry Stylli has provided executive leadership to numerous innovative companies. Dr. Harry Stylli also serves as founder and executive chairman of Progenity, a genetic testing company catering to women and expectant parents as well as to individuals with potential familial cancer risks. You can connect with Dr. Harry Stylli at LinkedIn