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Declan Bates talk

Declan Bates portrait

Declan Bates portraitDeclan will tell us another hopeful story.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Goodbye Entertainment, hello Systems Medicine. He  is focusing on intensive care medicine. The challenge is to save more lives, and reduce the very high treatment costs.

As an engineer, he usually thinks of design in terms of technology, but it can also be thought about in terms of systems. A system is a group of interacting, interrelated or interdependent elements working together, whether an aeroplane or a airport.

There are many trade-offs in designing technological systems, and the objective is to find the ‘sweet spot’. But complexity can defeat the possibility. We need a clear understanding of how elements interact, and computer-aided design as a tool.

Another definition of a system is a group of body organs, e.g. the digestive system. In medicine, there are many trade-offs, such as between disease eradication and side effects.

For example, mechanical ventilation involves a trade-off between necessary gas exchange and avoiding lung injury. The lung is a very complex system, and in patients with lung diseases the functioning of the millions of alveoli becomes even more variable. So Declan and his collaborators are developing computer models to simulate the effects of different ventilation strategies in different patients, and CAD tools to find the sweet spot.

They are still only scratching the surface of the potential. Using computer models could: reduce the use of animals in medical research; steer clinical trials to make them quicker and more efficient; provide more personalised treatment; lower mortality rates.

More Information

Systems Biology research at the University of Exeter

Anaesthesia and Intensive Care research at the University of Nottingham

Declan Bates biography

Declan Bates BW

Declan BatesDeclan Bates is Professor of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Exeter. His research is focused on the development and application of advanced control system design and analysis methods for aerospace and systems biology applications. In collaboration with clinicians, he is now attempting to apply engineering principles to develop novel strategies for treating critically ill patients in intensive care units. He is particularly interested in life threatening respiratory pathologies and how the search for improved treatments might be formulated as a design problem. He is convinced that many seemingly intractable problems can be overcome by collaborations, especially between people from such diverse backgrounds that they are only barely able to understand each other.

Declan has held visiting lecturer positions at the Technical University of Delft, Holland, and the University of Cranfield. He is the co-author of Robust Multivariable Control of Aerospace Systems (Delft University Press, 2002) and Feedback Control in Systems Biology (CRC Press, 2011). From 2004 to 2007 he was the Vice-Chair of the GARTEUR FM-AG17 Action Group on Nonlinear Analysis and Synthesis Techniques in Aircraft Control. From 2007 to 2010 he was a member of BBSRC’s Engineering and Biological Systems Research Committee, and subsequently a core member of BBSRC’s Research Committee C on Technology and Methodological Development. He is currently Vice-Chair of the Research Grants Review Committee of the International Human Frontier Science Program and a member of the editorial board of IET Systems Biology.