Dassault is all in on health care

The Simulia Community Conference offers in depth look at The Living Heart Project, and Bernard Charlès, CEO of parent company Dassault Systèmes reveals grand vision.

At this year’s Simulia Community Conference (SCC), executives from Dassault Systèmes outlined an emerging strategy around healthcare broad enough to encompass the company’s interests in chemistry and pharmacology. The centerpiece for Dassault’s announcements is the Living Heart Project, which was launched in January, 2014.

The Living Heart Project is an effort to model all aspects of the human heart. In the end, the work will enable better treatments for heart disease and perhaps customized treatments tailored to the patient’s own heart. In the beginning the Living Heart Project will support new development for treatments already in use, help train doctors and nurses, and enable better designs for medical devices.

Simulia’s Chief Strategy Officer Steve Levine and CEO Scott Berkey said the project has grown out of work being done in the medical community by researchers using Simulia’s tools over the past five years. Researchers are pushing for better ways to visualize and simulate biological and chemical systems including human organs. Levine said that when they showed the work happening in the medical community and at Simulia, Dassault CEO Bernard Charlès challenged them to push the effort further to model all aspects of the human heart and even to create a model of an individual’s heart.

Dassault used the Z Space visualization platform to demonstrate how researchers might work with the Living Heart Project. For example, you can interact with the heart,   see cross sections and animations. (Source: Jon Peddie Research)
Dassault used the Z Space visualization platform to demonstrate how researchers might work with the Living Heart Project. For example, you can interact with the heart, see cross sections and animations. (Source: Jon Peddie Research)

At the Simulia conference speaker Dr. Kumaran Kolandaivelu, an instructor and researcher at Harvard and MIT, talked about how the Living Heart Project can be compared to the Human Genome effort, which lasted from 1990 to 2003 and provided a platform for future research breakthroughs. Likewise, says Kolandaivelu, the Living Heart Project, which seeks to create a digital model of the human heart brings together research being done on a number of fronts and has the potential to provide a platform for future innovation. It takes a big vision and effort to bring together researchers from all disciplines and with varied interests. To have a living heart he said, we need the Living Heart Project.

Kolandaivelu much of medical research as being application based with people concentrating on specific problems. For example in studying treatments for cardiovascular disease, there is a large body of work that goes into designing stents and great work has been done on that front but researchers are isolated and the work they are doing may not be shared with other researchers studying the heart. The Living Heart Project brings together scientists, researchers, companies building medical devices, doctors, and developers studying all aspects of the heart  to collaborate on this project.

At the Simulia Community Conference Steve Levin said that over the period that the Simulia community has been exploring these issues, a nascent ecosystem has been developing. Specialists who consult with doctors on the best approaches for a particular patient’s treatment are exploring different techniques to visualize human organs and treatment approaches. They’re taking the available tools and putting them to work in new ways. They’re using tools designed to understand machines to understand the mechanical action of the heart, the blood flow, the electrical impulses.

Bernard Charlès, a man for whom the word ebullient was invented, says that when he saw the work being done in the field, and the challenges people were facing as they prepared for medical procedures, he said, “my God, we can help with that.” Dassault is building a major effort around chemistry and medicine. The Living Heart is one, very dramatic aspect of that effort.

What do we think?

The day following the CEO’s appearance at the Simulia conference Dassault announced a new brand for the company, Biovia. The brand will provide a home for Dassault’s Accelrys acquisition, but there will be crossover for the work Simulia is doing in simulation for medical applications.

Also, the company is taking advantage of the Accelrys acquisition announcements and branding to talk about how the company is trying to create more flow between their products through the 3D Experience. – K.M.