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Researchers in York University’s Faculty of Science leading national disease modelling efforts with major funding from Federal government

Researchers in York University’s Faculty of Science leading national disease modelling efforts with major funding from Federal government

Researchers in York University’s Faculty of Science have been awarded federal government funding to lead national disease modelling efforts that will help us better predict, prevent, and respond to emerging infectious disease.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health announced an investment of $10 million in funding today, including $2.5 million over two years for the One Health Modelling Network, led by York University mathematics professor Huaiping Zhu.

They also announced $3 million in funding for Mathematics for Public Health (MfPH) led by Dr. V. Kumar Murty at the University of Toronto; the initiative is co-led by York University mathematics professor Jianhong Wu.

The projects are among five multidisciplinary infectious disease modelling networks being funded through the Emerging Infectious Diseases Modelling Initiative, established through a partnership between the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The One Health Modelling Network for Emerging Infections/Réseau Une Seule Santé sur le modélisation des Infections (OMNI/RÉUNIS) will use multidisciplinary knowledge about the connections between environmental, animal and human health to refine the disease modelling that is used to identify pathogens early.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented emerging infectious disease crisis with the spread of COVID-19, and we need to evolve accordingly,” said Zhu. “The OMNI network will focus on developing models and capacity to inform prevention, surveillance and response. We will ‘follow the bug’ from its place of origin to its introduction and establishment.”

The OMNI network will build on the strong modelling history and multi-disciplinary expertise of the Canadian Centre for Disease Modelling, based at York, and includes many collaborators from the university: Faculty of Science professors Iain Moyles, Jude Kong, Hongmei Zhu, Jane Heffernan, Carly Rozins and Hanna Jankowski; Lassonde School of Engineering professors Marina Freire-Gormaly, Manos Papagelis and Aijun An; and Professor Sean Hillier of the Faculty of Health.

The Mathematics for Public Health (MfPH) initiative is a collaboration between The Fields Institute, the Atlantic Association for Research in Mathematical Sciences (AARMS), the Centre de Recherches Mathématiques (CRM), and the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS). It establishes a pan-Canadian, Emerging Infectious Disease Modelling (EIDM) network that aims to apply advanced mathematical techniques to help achieve public health objectives. The MfPH group is comprised of 48 co-investigators, 21 Canadian institutions and more than 20 national and international collaborators in fields such as epidemiology, mathematical modelling, infectious disease, and public health. It will mobilize a national network that uses state-of-the-art techniques to advise on public health policy with the long-term goal of boosting future epidemic preparedness and improving Canada’s resilience in emergency situations. 

“The establishment of this network is critical at this time,” says Professor Wu. “It will accelerate our ability to respond to the current pandemic swiftly and accurately, and prepare for future public health emergencies.”

York University brings an interdisciplinary perspective to this national network and modelling platform, with expertise including mathematical modelling, disaster management and emergency operations, smart transportation systems, economic and financial risk assessment, and computational epidemiology.

Including Wu, there are eight York University co-applicants involved in this project: professors Seyed Moghadas, Shengyuan (Michael) Chen, Ed Furman, and Jude Kong, all from the Department of Mathematics & Statistics; professor Peter Park, Lassonde School of Engineering; and Ali Asgary, and Ida Ferrara, professors in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.