Parameter identifiability problems can plague biomodelers when they reach the quantification stage of development, even for relatively simple models. Structural identifiability (SI) is the primary question, usually understood as knowing which of P unknown biomodel parameters p1, pi, pP are-and which are not-quantifiable in principle from particular input-output (I-O) biodata. It is not widely appreciated that the same database also can provide quantitative information about the structurally unidentifiable (not quantifiable) subset, in the form of explicit algebraic relationships among unidentifiable pi. Importantly, this is a first step toward finding what else is needed to quantify particular unidentifiable parameters of interest from new I-O experiments. We further develop, implement and exemplify novel algorithms that address and solve the SI problem for a practical class of ordinary differential equation (ODE) systems biology models, as a user-friendly and universally-accessible web application (app)-COMBOS. Users provide the structural ODE and output measurement models in one of two standard forms to a remote server via their web browser. COMBOS provides a list of uniquely and nonuniquely SI model parameters, and-importantly-the combinations of parameters not individually SI. If non-uniquely SI, it also provides the maximum number of different solutions, with important practical implications. The behind-the-scenes symbolic differential algebra algorithms are based on computing Grö bner bases of model attributes established after some algebraic transformations, using the computer-algebra system Maxima. COMBOS was developed for facile instructional and research use as well as modeling. We use it in the classroom to illustrate SI analysis; and have simplified complex models of tumor suppressor p53 and hormone regulation, based on explicit computation of parameter combinations. It's illustrated and validated here for models of moderate complexity, with and without initial conditions. Built-in examples include unidentifiable 2 to 4-compartment and HIV dynamics models.
Meshkat, N., Er-zhen Kuo, C., & DiStefano, J. (2014). On finding and using identifiable parameter combinations in nonlinear dynamic systems biology models and combos: A novel web implementation. PLoS ONE, 9(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0110261