Introduction to OpenWorm


OpenWorm is an open source project and open science community dedicated to creating the world's first whole organism in a computer, a C. elegans nematode, via bottom-up "systems biology" computational modeling. It is an association of highly motivated scientists, engineers, coders, and curious citizens from around the world who believe in open science and open access.

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The complexity of computational neuroscience and biology make it extremely difficult to sort through the myriad facts, data, and biological processes that are uncovered on a daily basis by researchers around the world.

OpenWorm believes that the challenges of solving brain simulation, even for the simplest of model organisms, require open access and collaborative solutions.

OpenWorm is actively working to achieve its goal - creating the world's first virtual organism in a computer - by:

  • bringing together highly motivated scientists and engineers in the open space
  • pushing away all the red tape by taking open science to the extreme
  • fostering growth of a completely open computational biology community


Our main goal is to build the world's first virtual organism - an in silico implementation of a living creature - for the purpose of achieving an understanding of the events and mechanisms of living cells. Our secondary goal is to enable, via simulation, unprecedented in silico experiments of living cells to power the next generation of advanced systems biology analysis, synthetic biology, computational drug discovery and dynamic disease modeling.

We've created this documentation to help orient you to the different locations on the web where OpenWorm material is found and where contributions can be made.

The modeling approach page explains how we have broken down this problem and what steps we are currently taking.

The resources page has a gallery of content that has been produced by the project, including simulation engines, visualization environments, and data sets.

There are a lot of additional questions you may have about the project. We have assembled a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document to help you. You may also wish to use the search feature in our documentation.

Contributing to OpenWorm

To start off the process, please give us some information about yourself on this form. We recommend as well that you sign up to this mailing list and peruse the archives to get a sense of what is going on.

Then, please browse our project list to understand the different areas where work is happening. To put the projects in context, you will find it useful to read more about the big picture idea of the [modeling approach](modeling) we are taking.

If you are interested in a specific programming language, check out links to issues specifically for Python or C++. We also have a lot of Java and Javascript/HTML/CSS development going on as part of Geppetto. See the list of issues here.

If you have questions about specific things you find, please post them to the list.

More information about the process of making a contribution is available on our community page

While the heart of OpenWorm is computational modeling, we are always looking for people with talents beyond programming to contribute. Are you a graphic designer, writer, PR specialist or simply someone with a love of science and expertise to share? Please reach out to us at to discuss opportuntities with OpenWorm.