The Virtual Kidney uses a web interface and distributed computing to provide experimental scientists and analysts with access to computational simulations and knowledge databases hosted in geographically separated laboratories. Users can explore a variety of complex models without requiring the specific programming environment in which applications have been developed. This initiative exploits high-bandwidth communication networks for collaborative research and for shared access to knowledge resources. The Virtual Kidney has been developed within a specialist community of renal scientists but is transferable to other areas of research requiring interaction between published literature and databases, theoretical models and simulations and the formulation of effective experimental designs. A web-based three-dimensional interface provides access to experimental data, a parameter database and mathematical models. A multi-scale kidney reconstruction includes blood vessels and serially sectioned nephrons. Selection of structures provides links to the database, returning parameter values and extracts from the literature. Models are run locally or remotely with a Grid resource broker managing scheduling, monitoring and visualization of simulation results and application, credential and resource allocation. Simulation results are viewed graphically or as scaled colour gradients on the Virtual Kidney structures, allowing visual and quantitative appreciation of the effects of simulated parameter changes.