ICARIS in progress!

This year’s ICARIS conference (international conference on artificial immune systems) is held in Taormina, Sicily. The university of York has 6 delegates here, covering both the computational immunology and engineering concerns of the conference.

Richard Williams’ had the “grave yard” shift, presenting his position on the limitations of UML in capturing the stochastic aspects of the immune system, and how he has used statistics to model the distributions of immune behaviour that result from this stochasticity. Jon Timmis presented on day 2, arguing that if immunological simulations are to inform drug discovery and design, and clinical trial design as we all hope, then they must be viewed as safety critical systems (the safety of patients depending on this information). As as result, the processes through which they are constructed, tested for bugs, documented and demonstrated as reliable must all become more rigorous. This is a message that has been emanating from our lab for some time now (my own thesis addresses some of these issues), and its very encouraging to see the audience being receptive to the message. The same “grave yard” shift of day 2 (at the end of a long day, with a completely dark room) saw my own presentation on possible cellular mechanisms through which CD200 inhibits DC function (work performed by Bjorn and James). This too was well received, though I learnt that talking over a live video of ARTIMMUS that is already annotated with text can be tricky to time correctly!

We have just, literally just now, had Tiong’s paper on sensor networks. There was some comedy as Tiong tried to start his presentation on a Chinese chap’s computer – only to find that he could not full screen the presentation as all the menus were in Chinese symbols!

I leave you with this lovely picture of Taomina…

Update: the conference is now coming to a close. Its been fantastic to see colleagues in the field again, who have been very social – 18 of us went to dinner together last night, where the following photo was taken of the day’s plenary speakers, Prof. Stephanie Forrest. She delivered an outstanding presentation on “The Biology of Software”, where she described research on using evolutionary methods to fix bugs in computer code (amongst other things). She was very happy at dinner.

PS. There has been a conspicuous gap in my own publication record for the last two years, being the bulk of my research that resulted in the construction of the ARTIMMUS simulation. This is not dead, its just turning out to be an extremely hard paper to write given where we are trying to send it. Its on the 10th complete re-write in 2 years. We found some time to look at it again in the conference, and this draft is looking good, so hopefully there will be more news on that soon enough…