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May 4, 2004

School of Public Health Awarded $2.9 Million for Computer Modeling of Epidemics

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was awarded $2.9 million to create computer models for analyzing potential epidemics and evaluating methods for containing potential bioterrorism and other disease outbreaks, such as SARS and West Nile Virus. MIDAS (Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study) is a $28 million project funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will be one of several research groups that will create highly visual, user-friendly computational analyses of disease outbreaks. Using current and historic data, the researchers will incorporate factors such as disease incubation periods, transmission rates, weather patterns, individual susceptibility and social networks to construct working models of epidemics. The Hopkins team will initially study smallpox, dengue fever and West Nile virus. The models they develop will then be applied to study other infectious agents.

“MIDAS will allow us to investigate epidemics in silico, or within the computer, to determine the best methods for dealing with an outbreak in the real world. What we’re creating is experimental epidemiology, which will have a major impact on the way we investigate, prevent and treat disease outbreaks,” said Donald S. Burke, MD, lead investigator of MIDAS and professor of International Health and Epidemiology at the School of Public Health. “The information learned will be particularly valuable in planning for potential bioterrorism and new emerging viruses, like SARS.”

Dr. Burke will lead the Hopkins MIDAS group and will include researchers from the Brookings Institution, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the University of Maryland and Imperial College in London. NIH announced that Research Triangle Institute, Los Alamos Lab and Emory University also received MIDAS grants.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.