Code and resources for the EPSRC BioSimSpace project.
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Code and resources for the EPSRC BioSimSpace project.

BioSimSpace is an interoperable framework for biomolecular simulation. With it you can:

  • Write robust and portable biomolecular workflow components that work on different hardware, with different software packages, and that can be run in different ways, e.g. command-line, Jupyter.
  • Interact with running molecular simulation processes in real-time within a Jupyter notebook.


The script will automatically install and configure a clean BioSimSpace application on Linux or macOS. Following a successful installation, the following aliases will be set:

  • bss_python - The BioSimSpace python interpreter.
  • bss_ipython - The BioSimSpace interactive python shell.
  • bss_jupyter - The BioSimSpace Jupyter executable.
  • bss_test - Run the BioSimSpace unit tests.

(You'll need to run source ~/.biosimspacerc or restart your shell for these to take effect.)

Note that this defaults to installing the latest stable version of BioSimSpace from the master branch. To install the development version, run:

./ --branch=devel

Since the Sire binary is quite large (~700 MB), it is only re-downloaded whenever a new version is released. To force a clean install with a fresh download, run:

./ --clean

BioSimSpace runs many subprocess in temporary working directories. To control the directory location, set the TMPDIR environment variable.

Full installation details are given below for those who wish to install BioSimSpace manually, or already have built their own Sire application.

BioSimSpace is built on top of the Sire molecular simulations framework. At present you will need to need to install BioSimSpace into an existing Sire application:

cd python
python install

(You can safely ignore warnings regarding mmtf-python, mkl-random, and mkl-fft.)

Note that this assumes that Sire's bin directory, typically $HOME/, has been added to your path. Alternatively, run:

$HOME/ install

At present we recommend using the devel branch of Sire to ensure that you have access to the latest features and bug-fixes.

If you experience problems with matplotlib when importing BioSimSpace on macOS, e.g.

RuntimeError**: Python is not installed as a framework.

simply add the following to ~/.matplotlib/matplotlibrc

backend: TkAgg

Note that plotting functionality will be disabled if you are using BioSimSpace within IPython on a remote server without X forwarding.

Several additional packages are required for full access to all of BioSimSpace's functionality. Please download and install these packages according to their recommended installation instructions.

(Installation and use of these packages is subject to the terms of their respective licenses.)

For Somd support you'll need to export the following (Bash style) environment variable:

# Use the appropriate path for your Sire installation.


Each package has its own README page:

Full API documentation and examples can be found at


BioSimSpace makes use of several external python packages. These should be automatically installed into your Sire app by the script.


A collection of example scripts and notebooks are included in the demo directory.


BioSimSpace is written in Python but uses an object-oriented style with C++ naming conventions. More details can be found here.

Please create a feature branch for development work. Branches related to a particular feature should be prefixed with feature, i.e. for the BioSimSpace.Process module:


When you are happy with your feature, merge into the testing branch to check that the continuous integration tests pass. When ready, create a pull request so that the feature can be merged into devel. Once the merge is successful, please delete the redundant feature branch.


We currently don't run continuous integration (CI) against all BioSimSpace branches. This is because BioSimSpace is built on top of Sire meaning that a binary version of Sire must be downloaded and unpacked on the CI server, into which BioSimSpace is installed.

Since the Sire binary is large, executing a fresh download for every commit is currently prohibitively expensive. Instead, we use a testing branch for CI. Feature branches are periodically merged into testing to validate the build process and check that all unit tests pass.

For those who wish to run things locally, a test suite can be found here.


Please report bugs and other issues using the GitHub issue tracker. When reporting issues please try to include a minimal code snippet that reproduces the problem. Additional files can be also be uploaded as an archive, e.g. a zip file. Please also report the branch on which you are experiencing the issue, along with the BioSimSpace version number. This can be found by running:

import BioSimSpace as BSS


BioSimSpace uses the following versioning convention for releases, YYYY.MAJOR.MINOR, e.g. 2018.1.0. For a summary of the version history, please refer to the CHANGELOG.