New Report Spotlights Research Gaps and Future Directions for Digital Twins

Perhaps you’re already applying digital twins in your research, or maybe you’re simply curious about where this new technology is headed in the future. Whatever the case, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) just published a new report that can help you learn more about this high-tech tool.

A biomedical digital twin gives you a predictive, real-time, virtual representation of a living physical system. Imagine, some day you may have a digital “twin” that predicts your response to treatment—before you ever swallow a pill or take a round of chemotherapy.

This once futuristic technology has advanced considerably, as captured in this 160+ page report, which summarizes the current state of the field, identifies opportunities and challenges across different domains and disciplines, and makes recommendations (to help guide both research and federal-agency investments).

Co-sponsored by the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, NIH, and the National Science Foundation, the report synthesizes information from workshops, boards, and committees specializing in this technology.

Importantly, cross-domain experts (in biomedical research, atmospheric science, aerospace engineering, and more) dispel some of the “hype” surrounding digital twins so you can better understand what’s known about this technology and what’s still missing.

According to Dr. Emily Greenspan, a CBIIT health science administrator and the lead NIH sponsor, the NASEM committee “did an exceptional job creating this report.”

Her key takeaway? Digital twins have incredible promise for biomedical research but still have many unknown variables (in their design, creation, and implementation). Those variables must be considered, especially in the context of strong validation and ethics.

She adds, “What’s clear is that it will take multiple federal agencies working together, across mission spaces, disciplines and mechanisms, to realize the full potential of digital twin technology.”

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