On February 9, 2021, US Patent 10,916,328, Systems and Methods for Cell-Centric Simulation and Cell-Based Models Produced Therefrom, was issued, after well over a decade of waiting. Seven of the eight listed inventors are either faculty or graduates of Boise State and include Dr. Timothy Andersen, Mason Vail and four Boise State University Computer Science students who have since graduated.
This team developed this patent while consulting/working with a small local company focused on biologically-inspired computing including development of the research-focused simulation platform described by this patent and genetic algorithmic search, also using this platform. Unfortunately the long-term U.S. government grant that was funding this project was terminated prior to the product going commercial and the company dissolving, but after this patent was submitted (2007). Mason Vail says that despite all this, “the patent finally [getting awarded] validates that what [they] were doing was awesome” and “incredible.”
Mason also describes the patent and this work as follows: “The patent describes a super flexible configurable biological simulation platform that enables development of models including genetic and chemical networks, signaling, and physical interactions useful for simulating high-fidelity living tissues, but more importantly, enables exceptional interactive genetic and phenotypic research. For example, one of the example models described in the patent is an epithelium (skin) model in which basal stem cell niches were naturally maintained through the emergent interactions between virtual cells, each acting independently, in their environment – basically the same way tissues in a living system regulate themselves. Manipulating gene expression in such a system (through mutation or introduction of a virus-like activator or other unusual chemical signal) can produce cancer-like results.”
At the time this patent was filed, the team was using this platform to develop and study several exciting cancer models in collaboration with a couple major university cancer centers and planaria (flatworm) models with another university.