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CDC taps Emory as ‘innovation performer’ to support outbreak forecasting, response initiative
Media Contact
Rob Spahr
Associate Director, Media Relations & Health Sciences Communications

ATLANTA – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that Emory University is one of 13 funded partners that will work alongside the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA) to establish an outbreak response network that uses data to support decision makers during public health emergencies.

A team of Emory researchers received a total of $17.5 million in funding to support the CDC’s new national network as an “innovation performer.”  As an innovation performer, the Emory team will support the development of a pipeline of new analytical methods, tools and platforms for modeling efforts that will ultimately inform public health decision makers.  

“We are honored that a collaborative team of Emory researchers from across our Rollins School of Public Health, School of Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences was selected to contribute to this critical endeavor,” Emory Provost Ravi Bellamkonda says. “We are grateful to the CDC for giving Emory this opportunity to build upon our extensive achievements in seeking and applying innovative solutions with transformative real-world benefits. It speaks to Emory’s exceptional strength in outbreak preparedness and health sciences in general.”

The national network is the first step toward creating a nationwide resource for outbreak analytics, disease modeling, and forecasting to support more effective response during public health emergencies.  

“Each of the grantees will help us move the nation forward in our efforts to better prepare and respond to infectious disease outbreaks that threaten our families and our communities,” says Dylan George, director of CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics. “We are committed to working alongside these outstanding partners to achieve our goal of using data and advanced analytics to support decision-makers at every level of government.” 

Emory’s co-principle investigators for this initiative will be Allison Chamberlain, Natalie Dean and Benjamin Lopman from the Rollins School of Public Health, Katia Koelle from the College of Arts and Sciences, and Anne Piantadosi from the School of Medicine.

Benjamin Lopman, PhD, professor of epidemiology and environmental health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, says it is an honor to be part of such a major federal investment into developing a network of experts in infectious disease modeling to be better prepared for future public health emergencies. 

“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the central role of outbreak analytics for informing public health decision-making. But, despite rapid advances in the field, the pandemic exposed the wide gap that remains between analytical methodology and the on-the-ground realities of an emergency,” Lopman says. “The Emory Center for Infectious Disease Modeling & Analytics and Training Hub (CIDMATH) will work closely with the CDC and community partners to design, implement, and refine new and enhanced analytical tools, to generate critical novel data streams and provide training for multiple levels of the infectious disease epidemiology and modelling community.”

He adds, “the work of CIDMATH will make us more prepared to rapidly generate actionable insights for policy makers in future outbreaks and public health emergencies.” 

Natalie Dean, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Rollins, says the CDC funding will enable Emory to assemble a new center dedicated to advancing outbreak analytics.  

“In outbreaks big and small, situational awareness is vital. Despite the wealth of data that surround us, and despite advances in analytics during the pandemic, there is still much work that remains,” Dean says. “Our center will promote the timely and reliable use of data for decision-making, while also building the public health workforce who can deploy these tools. Our goal is to undertake the ‘peace time’ work needed to ensure readiness for a future public health emergency.”

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