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Group Editor Marty Kauchak provides insights on the development of the BioGears™ open-source physiology engine.

In January Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA) announced they were awarded a multiyear, $7 million assistance agreement by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) in Fort Detrick, Maryland under Contract Number: W81XWH-13-2-0068.

A biomedical research team at ARA is developing BioGears™, an open-source physiology engine to support a USAMRMC technology thrust. The physiology engine will allow for distributed collaboration and consistent simulation across and beyond the medical training community.

The US Army’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) is administering the BioGears™ program.

Jerry Heneghan, the director of HumanSim Product Development and the BioGears™ principal investigator at ARA, told MEdSim during the 2014 IMSH conference, BioGears™ is not being developed exclusively for biomedical engineers, but rather for “any folks who want to create content.” Indeed, BioGears™ is being developed to permit easy integration with immersive medical education software built on popular game engines such as the award winning Unreal® Engine technology and Unity® game engine.

The community leader continued, “A main goal of BioGears™ is to lower the barrier to create medical training content. Our team is doing just that by providing an open source, accurate physiology engine and source code for all types of users to benefit from this project.”

BioGears™ will push the edge of the technology envelope by providing a model human response to trauma and treatment. BioGears™ will include physiologically accurate models for multiple systems, including cardiovascular, respiratory, renal and endocrine

Conceptually, the BioGears™ end user could include multiple types of users from a content developer interested in integrating BioGearsTM into a serious game, to a human physiology researcher who is running simulations to understand human response to trauma and treatment.

“I had a guy come up to me today saying he was from a medical device company and said he wanted a physiology engine to do testing…So this is really a game changer as there has never been an open source physiology engine where something like this would be feasible,” Heneghan pointed out.

The BioGears™ engine will be “lightweight” from a computational perspective as BioGears™ will not require an inordinate amount of central processing unit cycles to operate. The engine and the Common Data Model will be open source and will permit the end user to improve on individual systems or features. “Our software design promotes interoperability, ease of use and the Common Data Model standardizes inputs and outputs of the physiology engine,” Heneghan stated.


In September 2014 prime contractor ARA will release a limited functionality “mini-build” of the software.

“We are going to put the build out there for the community to begin exploring how to use BioGears™ for medical training and education. We hope that by the Beta Build Release conference in 2015, users will come and talk about their experiences integrating BioGears and we can take these experiences and use them to improve the following releases,” Henghan said.

Concurrent with the BioGears™ Engine Beta Build Release in the fall of 2015, the BioGears™ team will host a Users’ Group Conference in the Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina area. The conference’s focus will address: how to use BioGears™ in your application; how the community can contribute to the ongoing body of knowledge; and demonstrate how BioGears™ is working in a medical training tool ARA is developing for the US Army.

Prospective conference delegates wanting to participate speak and exhibit may sign up for email updates at You will receive news when the team reaches important project milestones and when conference registration becomes available.

Following the fall 2015 Beta Build Release conference, the BioGears™ team will migrate to the maintenance phase. “So here we’ll do ‘bug fixing’, updates and make tweaks. And we’ll continue to engage and involve the community for about two and one-half years after that. That’s the project,” Heneghan concluded.

Editor’s note: Jerry Heneghan may be contacted at


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