Northeastern University has been chosen to play a prominent role in a new national network aimed at improving the forecasting of future pandemics. The institution will receive a $17.5 million grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the next five years to establish the “EPISTORM: The Center for Advanced Epidemic Analytics and Predictive Modeling Technology.” Led by Alessandro Vespignani, director of Northeastern’s Network Science Institute, the center will focus on detecting and preparing for the next outbreak of infectious diseases, particularly in rural areas.
As part of the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, this initiative aims to create a “National Weather Service for epidemic threats.” Northeastern University is one of the 13 centers in this new CDC outbreak response network. The university will coordinate with a consortium of 10 research institutions, health care systems, and private companies to develop innovative tools and technologies for epidemic preparedness.
The center will utilize algorithms to analyze data from various sources, including hospital admissions, waste water surveillance, social media, and travel patterns, to predict the spread and progression of infections. Northeastern University researchers have previously provided vital advice to the White House on the impact of social distancing guidelines during the early stages of the pandemic.
“Northeastern University is the ideal location for this innovation center due to Alex Vespignani’s expertise in pandemic tracking,” said Jared Auclair, director of bioinnovation at Northeastern University. The center’s primary objective is to design innovative strategies to improve epidemic preparedness and response. Samuel Scarpino, director of artificial intelligence and life sciences, added that the center will employ artificial intelligence and network science techniques to incorporate waste water, genomic, and mobility data into forecasting models.
Boston University is also participating in this initiative, as confirmed in Northeastern University’s press release, although no further information was released at the time of reporting. The project has also received a $23.5 million grant over five years for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, emphasizing the significance of fortifying the nation’s defense against future epidemics.
– The Boston Globe ([email protected])