April 20, 2020

Fullstone et al. published in npj Systems Biology and Applications

The FLAME-accelerated signalling tool (FaST) for facile parallelisation of flexible agent-based models of cell signalling

Gavin Fullstone, Cristiano Guttà, Amatus Beyer & Markus Rehm

Agent-based modelling is particularly adept at modelling complex features of cell signalling pathways, where heterogeneity, stochastic and spatial effects are important, thus increasing our understanding of decision processes in biology in such scenarios. However, agent-based modelling often is computationally prohibitive to implement. Parallel computing, either on central processing units (CPUs) or graphical processing units (GPUs), can provide a means to improve computational feasibility of agent-based applications but generally requires specialist coding knowledge and extensive optimisation. In this paper, we address these challenges through the development and implementation of the FLAME-accelerated signalling tool (FaST), a software that permits easy creation and parallelisation of agent-based models of cell signalling, on CPUs or GPUs. FaST incorporates validated new agent-based methods, for accurate modelling of reaction kinetics and, as proof of concept, successfully converted an ordinary differential equation (ODE) model of apoptosis execution into an agent-based model. We finally parallelised this model through FaST on CPUs and GPUs resulting in an increase in performance of 5.8× (16 CPUs) and 53.9×, respectively. The FaST takes advantage of the communicating X-machine approach used by FLAME and FLAME GPU to allow easy alteration or addition of functionality to parallel applications, but still includes inherent parallelisation optimisation. The FaST, therefore, represents a new and innovative tool to easily create and parallelise bespoke, robust, agent-based models of cell signalling.

To the top of the page