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  • 23 Jul 2024 2:10 AM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Evolutionary invasion analysis of modern epidemics highlights the context-dependence of virulence evolution

    by Sudam Surasinghe, Ketty Kabengele, Paul E. Turner, C. Brandon Ogbunugafor

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    Why do some pathogens evolve to make their hosts more sick, and others less?  This characteristic is embodied in the concept of “virulence,” a central idea in infectious diseases that describes the harm that a pathogen inflicts upon a host. Examining how virulence evolves constitutes a subfield of evolutionary theory, that attempts to make concrete predictions for how we should expect infectious diseases to evolve. In this study, we construct models of various epidemics, and apply a set of mathematical methods based on game theory that identify characteristics of mutant pathogens that render them uninvadable (that is, they cannot be invaded and replaced by a different strain of pathogen).  We demonstrate that pathogens that are spread via different routes—“directly” (as in SARS-CoV-2) or “indirectly” as in diseases like hepatitis C virus in a population of persons who inject drugs—have profoundly different expectations for how. Our findings have implications for how we analyze and prevent modern epidemics. We learn that how virulence will evolve is context-dependent. Consequently, our predictive models of the evolution of virulence should be tailor made to fit the particulars of certain infectious diseases.

    A diagram of an infectious disease model with multiple evolved strains of a pathogen.

  • 17 Jul 2024 4:01 AM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Multi-layer Bundling as a New Approach for Determining Multi-scale Correlations Within a High-Dimensional Dataset

    by Mehran Fazli, Richard Bertram & Deborah Striegel

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    The multi-layer bundling (MLB) method delivers a robust new approach to cluster elements of complex biological networks. Using different partitioning schemes (clustering regimes) obtained by spectral clustering on the affinity matrix, MLB provides hierarchical layers of clusters called bundles, where each bundle in a layer is formed from all elements with the same membership throughout all partitioning schemes used up to the current layer. This iterative process offers profound insights into the interconnections among data elements not apparent through a single clustering approach. For example, MLB excels in identifying critical bridge sets within interacting systems. If removed, these bridges can disrupt system compartments and halt information propagation, making their identification crucial for understanding network integrity. Moreover, MLB's unique capability to integrate bundle membership information through multiple layers with the affinity matrix significantly enhances its predictive power in network reconstruction. Compared to methods like WGCNA, MLB offers a more robust and versatile approach. Requiring fewer user-defined parameters, MLB provides a clearer view of the underlying data structures, empowering researchers with a powerful tool to decode complex datasets and uncover meaningful biological insight. Its versatility extends beyond biological networks, making it valuable for various research domains.

  • 10 Jul 2024 6:00 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Impact of Resistance on Therapeutic Design: A Moran Model of Cancer Growth

    by Mason Lacy & Adrianne Jenner 

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    Cancers often develop resistance to standard treatments, such as chemotherapy. Understanding how the appearance of resistant cells impacts the effectiveness of treatment is an important area of study. In this work, we use a Moran model to investigate the impact of resistance on two styles of treatment administration: single high-dose injections (or maximum tolerated dose) and sustained low-dose treatments.

    Experimentalists have been developing devices, such as hydrogels, that can be loaded with drug and injected close to the tumour. These devices then release the treatment slowly over time, giving a sustained (often low) dose of the therapy. Using a Moran model capturing a population of sensitive and resistant cells, we were able to show that maximum tolerated dosages are still the most effective protocols in the presence of an aggressive, resistant-prone tumour. We showed how even when the Moran model was calibrated to capture experimental data for treatment of breast cancer, the same result holds.

    Caption: Schematic depicting tumour evolution over time and the fixation of a resistant clone following therapy. As a cancer grows, it is subjected to various pressures which can cause mutations to arise. Some clones may contain mutations that may be more adept at coping with treatment or provide a fitness advantage to those cells, such as faster proliferation rates, and we denote these as driver mutations. After treatment, often cells with driver mutations conferring resistance and/or fitness advantages will expand in number. In some cases, this can result in a tumour that is no longer as genetically complex. Most importantly, these tumours are often no-longer sensitive to the original therapy (Color figure online)

  • 27 Jun 2024 5:05 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Spring 2024 Newsletter

    Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Sara Loo (Johns Hopkins University), Burcu Gürbüz (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz), Thomas Woolley (Cardiff University), and Olivia Chu (Dartmouth College)

    1. News – updates from: 
    2. People – New editor Burcu Gürbüz.
    3. Editorial – on Big Moves during academic careers.
    4. Featured Figure – Highlighting the research by early career researcheVeronica Ciocanel, Duke University.

    To see the articles in this issue, click the links at the above items.

    Contributing Content

    Issues of the newsletter are released four times per year in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The newsletter serves the SMB community with news and updates, so please share it with your colleagues and contribute content to future issues.

    If you have any suggestions for content or on how to improve the newsletter, please contact us at any time. We appreciate and welcome feedback and ideas from the community. The editors can be reached at

    We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!

    Alys, Sara, Thomas, Burcu, and Olivia

    News Section

    By Sara Loo and Olivia Chu

    News image

    SMB Subgroups Update

    Cell and Developmental Biology Subgroup

    The SMB Cell and Developmental Biology (CDEV) subgroup held its first virtual mini-conference in March 2024 (picture attached), featuring about 25 speakers and panelists, with participants registering from across 5 continents! Our virtual mini-conference “Cell and Development Festival Week” consisted of 5 sessions across 4 days, each with about two hours of programming. Thank you to all who presented and participated. Our subgroup has also continued to post interviews highlighting scientists in mathematical cell and developmental biology. In our three most recent blog posts, we hear from Evan Curcio, Duncan Martinson, and Hannah Scanlon; see for their interviews, as well as past interviews of other members of the CDEV community.

    Immunobiology and Infection Subgroup

    As a follow-up to the NIAID/SMB Workshop on Multiscale Modeling of Infectious and Immune-Mediated Diseases held at last summer’s SMB Annual Meeting, the Immunobiology and Infection Subgroup would like to highlight a paper summarizing the event that was recently published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology We look forward to organizing similar events/workshops in coordination with other SMB subgroups!

    MathOnco Subgroup

    Jason George and Harsh Jain’s terms as co-chairs are coming to an end. We are in the process of recruiting 2 co-chairs. Nominations have closed.

    The subgroup is also organizing a mini-symposium at the SMB 2024 Annual Meeting in Korea - ‘Emerging Researchers in Mathematical Oncology: The ONCO Group Minisymposium’. This will feature 10 talks by exciting early-career researchers from around the world.

    SMB DEI Committee

    1. The DEI Committee is pleased to share a recent publication in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology entitled “Integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into Preclinical, Clinical, and Public Health Mathematical Models”. The paper is a follow-up from the DEI-focused session and discussion at the 2023 SMB Annual Meeting held in Columbus, Ohio last year. The article presents key issues for the increased integration of DEI in mathematical modelling in biology. Such integration ensures the applicability and relevancy of mathematical models and their predictions to all.

    Justin Sheen, Lee Curtin, Stacey Finley, Anna Konstorum, Reginald McGee, and Morgan Craig. “Integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into Preclinical, Clinical, and Public Health Mathematical Models”. Bull Math Biol 86, 56 (2024).

    The 2nd Diversity of Math Bio Summer Virtual Seminar Series starts June 4! This series aims to highlight the diversity of mathematical biology research and the diversity of researchers in the field. The talks will be held on Tuesdays at 8:00 PDT / 11:00 EDT / 17:00 CEST via zoom. See the attached flyer for more details and register at to receive the zoom information. Please join in for an exciting summer of math bio talks!

    Dates: June 4, June 18, July 16, July 30, August 30
    • Confirmed Speakers:
      1. June 4: Paola Vera-Licona, University of Connecticut Health Center; Omar Saucedo, Virginia Tech
      2. June 18: Punit Gandhi, Virginia Commonwealth University; Maisha Marzan, North Central College
      3. July 16: Kristina Wicke, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Celeste Vallejo, Simulations Plus
      4. July 30: Van Pham, University of South Florida; Alex Ochoa, Duke University
      5. August 13: Malena Español, Arizona State University
    Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

    Society for Mathematical Biology Annual Meeting

    From 30th June - 5th July Friday 2024, the joint annual meeting of the Korean Society for Mathematical Biology and the Society for Mathematical Biology will be held at KonKuk University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. For more details check the conference website:

    Royal Society Publishing

    The Royal Society's journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A welcomes submissions of research and review articles in Mathematical Biology. With a broad, international readership and a thorough, constructive review process, authors can be confident that their work published with us will have an impact.

    Browse recent content including articles such as Structural identifiability analysis of linear reaction–advection–diffusion processes in mathematical biology on the website at

    Proceedings A publishes review articles of interest to a wide range of scientists and the Reviews Editors welcome proposals for new reviews. All review articles are made immediately open access at no cost to the author. See for information on proposing a Review and see some recent review articles at


    By Thomas Woolley

    We interviewed one of our two new editors Burcu Gürbüz (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz). Find out more here.


    Image for Editorial Section

    By Alys Clark

    Big moves

    Moving institutions, or moving countries, is often talked about from the perspective of furthering an academic career. There are benefits from learning a new way of working, or from seeking a career pathway that simply isn’t available at your home institution. Across the field of mathematical biology most of us will have come across students and academics who have moved for one reason or another, and throughout an academic career opportunities may arise to further our careers further afield.

    We often discuss the academic considerations around these big moves - are we going to be studying or working at a good institution, what is the reputation of our new supervisor or mentor, and are we going to be moving to a research environment where we are going to be intellectually stimulated and supported? It is really important to talk to those that you will be working with or for, and making sure that the culture of the research team and/or department you will be working for suits you and your background. Perhaps less discussed though are the everyday practicalities of such a move and these may be equally important determinants of success at your new home (be it a short or a long term stay).

    I recall on my own (second) international move, for a postdoc position, I found myself in the situation of being unable to open a bank account to pay my salary into without proof of address, and being unable to move into an apartment without proof of finances (i.e. a salary). It is really stressful in your first days or weeks in a new country to be navigating these kind of situations (which are ultimately resolvable) so planning where you might live and the administrative steps you will need to take to set yourself up in advance is desirable. Luckily, there will likely be many that have been in the same situation before you, so your new workplace may be able to put you in touch with people who have recently been through the same process. For those who are moving for employment, working out whether you be eligible for retirement plans (or whether they are transferable if you move again) is also a good idea. Making friends takes time, and joining clubs and community groups can help some to establish networks, but time of life and the community to which you move can influence how long it takes to feel at home. We are all now much more used to online communication which can help you to stay connected with old friends and family. But with patience these connections in your new home build too, so it is worthwhile building those connections even if the move is short term.

    There are also international contexts to research priorities and funding. Post-PhD access to research funding may be a priority for establishing a career, but in many countries funding is limited to people with citizenship or residence of the country in question. This may be worth checking before you move to avoid any surprises. In mathematical biology, local priorities may also drive research direction. Will you be able to establish good links to experimental scientists, and are there requirements for ethical approval or consultation specific to your new institution that you should be aware of?

    Finally, a move between countries, or even between cities is not for everyone and there are multiple reasons that mean we are best to stay just where we are. Luckily, the thought that we must move to ensure success are fading and there are several opportunities to learn new ways of thinking and doing research from our international colleagues via short term stays or online events. This might include learning from experts in your own field of mathematical biology, or even picking up some experimental skills to complement the theory you are developing. Keep an eye on SMB subgroup news for opportunities, or keep a look out for summer schools or workshops associated with conferences you may be attending online or in person.

    Featured Figure

    By Sara Loo and Olivia Chu

    Early Career Feature - Veronica Ciocanel, Duke University

    In this issue, we feature a recent article "Parameter Identifiability in PDE Models of Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching", by Veronica Ciocanel, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Biology at Duke University. We asked Veronica to tell us a bit more about her work here:

    Identifying unique parameters for mathematical models describing biological data can be challenging. When studying models of macromolecular dynamics inside cells, spatial movement (characterized by diffusion, transport, and binding dynamics) can be significant and has an impact on the parameters that describe a given model. Therefore, partial differential equations (PDEs) that track the dynamics of proteins as a function of time and space are often an appropriate modeling framework. However, PDEs present challenges when trying to understand identifiability, especially since many established in vivo measurements of protein dynamics average out the spatial information.

    In this work, we focus on biological data obtained from a commonly-used and versatile experimental technique for probing protein dynamics in living cells: FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching). In particular, we would like to understand what insights we can gain from FRAP data about binding protein interactions in RNA localization bodies (biomolecular condensates) in oocytes of the frog Xenopus laevis. We find that known methods of (structural and practical) parameter identifiability have certain limitations for FRAP data and for the reaction-diffusion PDEs describing the binding protein dynamics. We therefore propose a pipeline for assessing parameter identifiability and for learning parameter combinations for this model. This method recovers the protein diffusion coefficient in synthetic datasets and predicts and the relationship between binding and unbinding rates in experimental datasets. Ultimately, we would like to use these insights to understand how various protein components interact and bind with RNA in biomolecular condensates.

    Figure Caption:

    A) Schematic of a stage II Xenopus frog oocyte with RNA granules localizing at the bottom shown in magenta. The black square region is shown magnified on the right, with a cartoon of a FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching) experimental bleach spot. B) The amount of fluorescence in the bleach spot over time gives rise to the blue experimental FRAP curve (blue). The fit with simulated FRAP data is equally good with two sets of binding/unbinding rate parameters as indicated in panel C). C) Approximation of the likelihood landscape for the non-identifiable parameters.

    You can find out more about this research here: 

  • 19 Jun 2024 11:26 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Dimensional Dependence of Binding Kinetics

    by Megan Dixon & James Keener 

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    Experimentally, the strength of protein-protein interactions is typically measured in solution, and dissociation constants are traditionally reported in units of volume concentration. It is often assumed that these three-dimensional dissociation constants give direct insight into how tightly the same proteins bind when they are membrane-associated. In this article, we explore and counter this notion. We demonstrate mathematically that dissociation constants are highly dependent on dimension. In both discrete and continuous space, we present and analyze stochastic models of binding kinetics in one, two, and three dimensions. Not only do dissociation constants in two dimensions have different units and forms than dissociation constants in three dimensions, the conversion between them is quite complex and requires detailed information. We present a novel formula to convert three-dimensional dissociation constants to two-dimensional dissociation constants. This conversion allows for better understanding of protein interactions on membranes and how to appropriately model them.

  • 13 Jun 2024 10:19 AM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Measles Infection Dose Responses: Insights from Mathematical Modeling

    by Anet Anelone & Hannah Clapham 

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    The measles virus (MV) is highly contagious and affects the whole body, including the skin and the immune system. As MV infection dose increases above one infectious particle, the peak of infectious viral load occurs sooner, yet its magnitude remains constant. It is important to improve understanding of measles, in part due to the re-emergence of measles outbreak worldwide, and a lack of research. We investigated mechanisms determining the outcomes of measles infection doses. We evaluated relevant biological hypotheses, and their respective mathematical formulations, to describe and fit data on the time course of measles infectious viral load in the peripheral blood of monkeys, following experimental measles infection with different doses. When MV infection dose increases, the initial viral load, and the initial number of responding immune cells increase. This mechanism decreases the time it takes for immune cells to control and remove infectious viral load. This mechanism also underpins the dose-independent magnitudes for measles viral load, and the loss of immune cells. Together, these findings suggest that the outcome of measles depends on how the immune system responds to incoming MV right from the beginning. This work encourages prevention, vaccination, and early diagnosis of measles.

    Caption: Measles infection dose responses: insights from mathematical modeling. Top: Model-data fits for acute viremia in response to changes in MV infection doses. using model parameterizations and assumptions in Table in the paper. 104, 103, 102, 10 and 1 TCID50 correspond to red diamonds, blue stars, orange triangles, magenta dots, and green squares respectively. The solid lines represent the trajectories generated by the proposed model parameterization. The shapes represent data. The dark grey dotted dashed line represents the limit of detection < 0.3. Bottom: Cartoon illustrating that the healthy body adjusts the response of the immune system to remove measles infectious particles sooner when the measles infection dose increases; however, the peak viral load remains constant

  • 06 Jun 2024 7:47 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Modelling the Impact of NETosis During the Initial Stage of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

    by Vladimira Suvandjieva, Ivanka Tsacheva, Marlene Santos, Georgios Kararigas Peter Rashkov

    Read the paper

    NETosis, or formation of Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs) in response to a pathogenic stimulus, is a suspected contributing factor of autoimmunogenicity in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Our ODE-based mathematical model studies the interaction between macrophages, neutrophils and two types of antigen with origin in apoptotic waste and NETs during the initial stage of the disease. Analytical and numerical calculations help classify the bifurcations between equilibria, in particular those with presence of autoantigen. The model predicts that even in parameter regimes with efficient clearance of NETs by immune cells, autoantigen can persist stably in tissue, causing chronic inflammation and loss of immune tolerance in the long run.

    Sketch of the interactions between cells and antigens studied by our model.

  • 21 May 2024 10:48 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Morphological Stability for in silico Models of Avascular Tumors

    by Erik Blom & Stefan Engblom

    Read the paper

    We develop a simple, stochastic model of an avascular tumor that displays known behavior at the considered scales. In parallel we develop, analyze, and simulate a surrogate PDE model to explain the growth pattern and shape of the stochastic model. 

    We investigate the emergent tumor morphology of the stochastic model (Fig. a) through the PDE model and through comparisons of respective model’s numerical experiments. The stochastic model displays the three characteristic avascular tumor regions -- the proliferative rim, quiescent annulus, and necrotic center -- and sigmoidal volumetric growth pattern in line with the PDE model under radial symmetry (Fig. b). The analysis predicts morphological instability under low oxygen and cell-cell adhesion conditions, as well as an ever-present creeping effect where the tumor as a whole migrates towards the oxygen source -- an effect observed during simulations of both models (Fig. c). The analysis further displays a capacity to predict non-trivial morphological patterns of the model tumor (Fig. d). 

  • 14 May 2024 5:26 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    The Unification of Evolutionary Dynamics through the Bayesian Decay Factor in a Game on a Graph

    by Arnaud Z. Dragicevic

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    The study unifies evolutionary dynamics on graphs by employing a decaying Bayesian update in the context of strategic uncertainty. It demonstrates that the replication of strategies leading to shifts between competition and cooperation in well-mixed and Bayesian-structured populations is equivalent under certain conditions. Specifically, this equivalence holds when the rate of transition between competitive and cooperative behaviors matches the relative strength of selection pressures. Our findings help pinpoint scenarios where cooperation is favored, independent of payoff levels, expanding the application of Price's equation beyond its original intent.

    Caption: The basins of attraction of the Price-wise unstructured population replicator dynamics

  • 01 May 2024 5:52 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

    Convex Representation of Metabolic Networks with Michaelis-Menten Kinetics

    by Josh Taylor, Alain Rapaport & Denis Dochain

    Read the paper

    Polyhedral models of metabolic networks are computationally tractable and provide insight into cellular functions. For example, flux balance analysis is a linear program in which reaction fluxes are optimized over polyhedral mass-balance constraints. In this paper, we augment the standard polyhedral model of a metabolic network with a new, second-order cone representation of the Michaelis-Menten kinetics. This enables us to explicitly model metabolite concentrations without losing tractability. We formulate conic flux balance analysis, a second-order cone program in which reaction fluxes are maximized while metabolite concentrations are minimized. While not as tractable as linear programming, second-order cone programs with hundreds of thousands of variables can be solved in seconds to minutes using modern solvers like Gurobi and MOSEK. In addition to predicting both fluxes and concentrations, we can use conic duality to compute sensitivities to kinetic parameters, i.e., maximum reaction rates and Michaelis constants. We also incorporate the second-order cone representation of the Michaelis-Menten kinetics into dynamic flux balance analysis and minimal cut set analysis. These tools provide new, tractable ways to analyze reaction fluxes and metabolite concentrations in metabolic networks. The Python code for each tool is available at;!!NVzLfOphnbDXSw!CB8YzXwI0ErdeBFcgljtFA36uhpf2ATRf6MEgYTiLhceaAzDS6gF7M5m047C62AYZH8xjVWlPanu7H7qQcsSzjBGP_RJ4rc$

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