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Consortium led by University of Virginia  Biocomplexity Institute funded by $10 million, five-year US National Science Foundation grant

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The purpose of grant is to use innovative technological, scientific advancements to plan for and respond to epidemics, pandemics, including outbreaks of deadly novel viruses, even common flu, which sickens, kills millions of people each year

Researchers at CDDEP, Princeton University and other leading institutions are part of a consortium led by the University of Virginia  Biocomplexity Institute that is funded by a new $10 million, five-year US National Science Foundation grant.

With 20,080 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 645 reported deaths (as on April 22, 2020) across the country, India is now facing an extended lockdown through May 3. Meanwhile, the US continues to top the countries with the most reported COVID-19, cases, followed by Spain and Italy. From the first novel coronavirus case reported on December 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China, COVID has now spread to 213 countries, territories and areas within a short span of 120 days. Infectious diseases account for more than 13 million deaths a year worldwide, and as the current situation has shown, globalisation, urbanisation, climate change, and ecological pressures increase the risk of a global pandemic.

Researchers at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) working with the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute (US) have received a $10 million, five-year collaborative ‘Expeditions in Computing’ grant from the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to use innovative technological and scientific advancements to plan for and respond to epidemics and pandemics, including outbreaks of deadly novel viruses and even the common flu, which sickens and kills millions of people each year.

This study aims to develop transformative and scalable computing and data science technologies to revolutionise real-time epidemiology for controlling disease outbreaks. The consortium includes teams of researchers at 14 academic institutions, working with renowned international partners who are determined to find ways to stop or mitigate outbreaks before they spread across the globe.

“As COVID-19 continues its rapid spread worldwide, the urgency and importance of this work is indisputable. We will work closely with numerous local, regional, national, and international public health agencies and universities to apply and deploy the resulting technologies for real-world epidemics that are likely to occur during the course of the project,” said Dr Madhav Marathe, lead researcher for the project and Division Director and Professor, Biocomplexity Institute and Department of Computer Science at University of Virginia.

Besides CDDEP, the research team is comprised of a diverse group of scientists and researchers with experience in related fields from 14 institutions, including: Arizona State University, Indiana University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Princeton University, Stanford University, State University of New York at Albany, University of Maryland, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Yale University.

“Since microbes don’t respect borders, we aim to especially support decision-makers in developing countries like India with new capabilities for science-based epidemic planning, predictive modelling, and response,” said Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director, CDDEP and senior research scholar at Princeton University.

The project will enable improved epidemic planning and response by implementing new ways to provide easily accessible tools for pandemic control and developing interdisciplinary partnerships for improved surveillance systems (from genomic to weather, social media etc).

“In the interconnected world that we live in, there is a need for extensive collaboration and coordination among agencies and governments across the globe in order to transform our global ability to respond to infectious disease and protect humanity,” said Dr Jyoti Joshi, Head-South Asia, CDDEP.

Such partnerships will enhance forecasting progression of epidemics, support efforts for resource allocation during response and mitigation, while also studying the effects of epidemics on social and political structures across the globe. The computational advances can also be applied to other fields beyond epidemiology including cybersecurity, ecology, economics, and social sciences.

The project titled, ‘Global Pervasive Computational Epidemiology’ is a consortium of researchers using state-of-the-art computational tools to study infectious diseases. Partners will collaborate to develop and apply novel computational theories of spreading and control processes to dynamic multi-scale, multi-layer (MSML) networks, integrating artificial intelligence, machine learning, and social science data and tools.

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