The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded Northeastern University $17.5 million to establish a new innovation center called EPISTORM (The Center for Advanced Epidemic Analytics and Predictive Modeling Technology). Led by Alessandro Vespignani, the director of Northeastern’s Network Science Institute, the center will focus on detecting and preparing for future outbreaks of infectious diseases, particularly in rural areas. The goal of the center is to create a National Weather Service-like system for epidemics and epidemic threats.
The CDC funding will allow Northeastern University to coordinate the efforts of a consortium consisting of 10 research institutions, healthcare systems, and private companies. The consortium will utilize tools such as wastewater surveillance, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other predictive analytics to help make more informed decisions during future outbreaks. The focus will be on providing advance warning to local communities and hospitals, especially in rural areas, to better prepare for outbreaks and allocate resources accordingly.
According to Vespignani, the EPISTORM center will monitor, forecast, and analyze various infectious diseases, including known diseases like Ebola and Zika, as well as new and emerging infections. The center aims to provide actionable intelligence to responders in the field, such as healthcare professionals and government authorities, to enable effective response and containment of pathogens.
The establishment of the EPISTORM center is part of the CDC’s larger initiative to create a national outbreak response network. This network consists of 13 centers, including five focused on innovation. The CDC recognizes the importance of data and advanced analytics in supporting decision-makers at all levels of government.
Northeastern University was chosen as the ideal location for the innovation center due to its expertise in pandemic tracking and network science. The university’s team has been involved in advising the White House on COVID-19 policies, utilizing network science to predict the spread of the virus.
Overall, the establishment of the EPISTORM center represents a significant step towards better preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks. By leveraging advanced analytics and predictive models, the center aims to contain and mitigate outbreaks at their source and provide efficient management plans for diseases.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Northeastern University website