The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has announced a $10 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help select new vaccines that have the best chance of preventing infectious disease outbreaks in the developing world.
The grant will support a project to create computer simulations of epidemics showing worst- and best-case outbreak scenarios that can be used to evaluate new vaccine technologies and modes of vaccine delivery. The project is part of the Vaccine Modeling Initiative, a research partnership of infectious disease modeling teams at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, and Imperial College London that is headquartered at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
During its initial phase, the effort will focus on the evaluation of new vaccine technologies for influenza, measles, and dengue; subsequently, it will develop models for epidemic pertussis, rotavirus, polio, pneumococcus, malaria, and tuberculosis. Project researchers will collaborate with infectious disease experts, computational modelers, and public health officials at Johns Hopkins University, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, M�decins Sans Fronti�res Epicentre, the University of Georgia, Resources for the Future, and the World Health Organization.
"Infectious diseases create an enormous burden on the world's population, from both a human suffering and an economic development perspective," said Donald S. Burke, principal investigator of the project and dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "One of the major challenges we face in stopping infectious disease outbreaks is predicting how control strategies, such as vaccines, will work. By using computer models to conduct 'epidemiology in silicon,' we will be able to test the impact of new candidate vaccine technologies and select the most effective strategies."