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Feb 04, 2017 08:40 AM EST

UC Berkeley Research Team Awarded $3.6 Million For Infectious Disease Study

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A research team from UC Berkeley's School of Public Health has been awarded a $3.6 million, five-year grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The fund is to be used for the development of new ways to simulate and optimize surveillance networks for the detection of infectious diseases.

In its official website, UC Berkeley reported that the project will be using big data to overcome major challenges that are an obstacle to the surveillance of global infectious diseases. This includes monitoring the progress of disease elimination campaigns, detecting co-infections as well as making sure that the detection of rare diseases in high-risk populations is maximized.

The researchers are said to focus on high-priority global infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and schistosomiasis. The team will also be working with practitioners at the U.S. and Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Project leader Justin Remais, who is an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, said that good surveillance systems are vital in detecting outbreaks, tracing emerging infections and continuing infectious disease control efforts especially in low- and middle-income countries. He also added that health datasets are important in identifying effective surveillance strategies for changing epidemiological and environmental conditions.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will fund the research through the NIH's Spatial Uncertainty funding program. The project will have collaborators such as statisticians and epidemiologists at the Beijing Institute for Microbiology and Epidemiology, Emory University and the University of Florida.

The project is titled "spatio-temporal data integration methods for infectious disease surveillance." It is intended to create statistical techniques for incorporating complex data from several surveillance systems, providing accurate insights into how the systems function as well as result to key advances in surveillance informatics.

Last September, it was announced that UC Berkeley, along with UC San Francisco and Stanford University will work together in a new medical science research center funded by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan. The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is dedicated to "advancing human potential and promoting equality."

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