In silico assessment of biomedical products: The conundrum of rare but not so rare events in two case studies

Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 2017 May;231(5):455-466. doi: 10.1177/0954411917702931.


In silico clinical trials, defined as "The use of individualized computer simulation in the development or regulatory evaluation of a medicinal product, medical device, or medical intervention," have been proposed as a possible strategy to reduce the regulatory costs of innovation and the time to market for biomedical products. We review some of the the literature on this topic, focusing in particular on those applications where the current practice is recognized as inadequate, as for example, the detection of unexpected severe adverse events too rare to be detected in a clinical trial, but still likely enough to be of concern. We then describe with more details two case studies, two successful applications of in silico clinical trial approaches, one relative to the University of Virginia/Padova simulator that the Food and Drug Administration has accepted as possible replacement for animal testing in the preclinical assessment of artificial pancreas technologies, and the second, an investigation of the probability of cardiac lead fracture, where a Bayesian network was used to combine in vivo and in silico observations, suggesting a whole new strategy of in silico-augmented clinical trials, to be used to increase the numerosity where recruitment is impossible, or to explore patients' phenotypes that are unlikely to appear in the trial cohort, but are still frequent enough to be of concern.

Keywords: Medical devices; computer modeling and simulation; in silico clinical trials; regulatory science; safety and efficacy.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Defibrillators
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Models, Biological


  • Insulin
  • Glucose