Nick Flann is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Utah State University (USU) and in 2010 completed a sabbatical at ISB in the Shmulevich lab.
Systems biology has been successful in understanding cell components and their complex interactions through the integration of high throughput data sources with computational analysis. The challenge is to extend systems biology over multiple scales to comprehend how subcellular processes control cell behavior and in turn, how interactions among cells lead to large scale organization at the tissue level. Such knowledge is key to unlocking the genetic foundations of morphological development and disease.
Dr. Flann’s research interests lie in developing mechanistic multiscale models that bridge the gap between regulatory network dynamics and morphological outcomes. The work focuses on applying high-fidelity methods that implement the diversity of cell physiology, not directly as high level descriptions, but as combinations of modular subcellular mechanisms. One such modeling approach is the Cellular Potts Model (CPM) that represents 2D and 3D cellular systems as lattices of simple mesoscopic particles and model components as additive energy terms over cell and sub-cell configurations. The advantage for multiscale modeling is in its simplicity and realism since, just as in living systems, organization at the cell, multicell and tissue scale emerges through the complex interaction of lower-level mechanisms.
Flann’s work in applying multicellular cancer modeling for drug discovery and optimization is featured in the Nature article “Modeling: Computing Cancer” Nature 491, S62-S63 (22 November 2012) doi:10.1038/491S62a
Modeling Multiscale Systems
PhD, Computer Science, Oregon State University, 1992
MS, Computer Science, Oregon State University, 1986
Research in Dr. Flann’s lab is directed to the development and application of multiscale models to significant biological subsystems in cancer, immunity and yeast colony development. Through active collaboration with multiple labs at ISB, common application-independent methodologies are being developed and applied to these specific domains as pilots systems. Some of the questions driving the research are:
Projects include: (a) a multidisciplinary study of how glioma development is influenced by the interactions among the immune, vascular and micro-tumor systems. This work is in collaboration with Dr. Wei Zhang at MD Anderson Cancer Center and involves the integrated of in vitro experimentation, image analysis and multiscale modeling; (b) understanding criticality at multiple scales in morphological and disease development; and (c) the designing of new methods for model fitting and validation from multiscale images.