The Blue Brain Project follows a four-year roadmap with specific scientific milestones to achieve its ultimate goal, digitally reconstructing and simulating the entire mouse brain. One of the goals in the current period is to model structures with direct relevance for the neocortex. The thalamus is highly interconnected with the cortex and plays an important role in an array of cognitive processes. It funnels sensory input to the neocortex with the thalamocortical loop playing a central role in cerebral rhythmogenesis (biological rhythm). As such, it has a key role in many functions, such as sleep and wakefulness and is involved in various diseases associated with dysfunction of rhythmic activity such as epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, there is much that scientists do not know about this brain region and as the understanding of the thalamocortical system deepens, so does the complexity of the questions scientists face.

Recognizing the importance of understanding the structural and biochemical basis of astrocyte-mediated neuronal energy metabolism in the mammalian brain, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and EPFL Blue Brain Project Alliance was set up in 2013 to focus on this area of brain research.

The collaboration recently held a two-day online workshop – Integrative Modeling of Brain Energy Metabolism, whichhighlighted and shared the achievements to date of this dynamic Alliance. Attended by hundreds from all over the world, the workshop also enabled the participants to hear from global experts in the field on the future directions of this research.

When the full-scale effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to be understood in early 2020, the EPFL Blue Brain Project and ETH Zurich, as part of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force, began collaborating with Spiez Laboratory on an online Platform – Academic Resources for COVID-19 (ARC). In a paper published in Frontiers for Public Health, the authors explain how the ARC Platform was set up to be a service to support Swiss diagnostic laboratories that are testing for SARS-CoV-2. The ARC Platform matched requests for critical equipment, reagents and consumable goods required by Swiss diagnostic laboratories involved in combating COVID-19 with supplies available from Swiss academic groups. Since then, with further input from Swiss startup Apptitude SA, the Platform has evolved with the needs of the epidemiological situation and the technology has been open sourced with the purpose to serve public health as a response solution for other countries and communities in the current COVID-19 crisis or in future crises.

The rodent Hippocampal formation is one of the most exhaustively studied regions in the mammalian brain but until now, there has not been a comprehensive knowledge base of its synaptic physiology. In a front cover paper published in the journal Hippocampus, researchers at EPFL’s Blue Brain Project present a data-driven approach to integrate the current knowledge on the hippocampal CA1 region using an open-access, comprehensive resource.

With the EPFL Blue Brain Project’s determination to make our computing resources and expertise available for the fight against COVID-19, we brought our experience in software development to team up with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND). FIND is a global non-profit organization focused on diagnostics, currently co-convening the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Diagnostics Partnership alongside The Global Fund, as a key part of the global response to the pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is critical to tracking SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19), understanding epidemiology, informing case management, and suppressing transmission. With diagnostics emerging as one of the most pressing issues in the COVID-19 crisis, Blue Brain has collaborated with FIND to develop a Diagnostic Implementation Simulator for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics.