CDC awards university $17.5M for pandemic preparedness work

The CDC will award Boston-based Northeastern University $17.5 million over the next five years to create an innovation center designed to help communities detect and prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks. 

"It will be the place where there will be monitoring, forecasting and scenario analysis for the country about all possible threats," including for both known diseases and novel ones, Alessandro Vespignani, PhD, who will lead the center, said in a news release. Dr. Espignani is the director of Northeastern's Network Science Institute. 

The pandemic preparedness center will be called EPISTORM: The Center for Advanced Epidemic Analytics and Predictive Monitoring Technology, and will be heavily focused on supporting rural areas. The center will lead a consortium of 10 research institutions, health systems and private companies that will leverage tools such as wastewater surveillance, artificial intelligence and machine learning to support its efforts. 

"We want to be in a place where there is a National Weather Service for epidemics and epidemic threats," Dr. Vespignani said. 

Last year, the CDC formed the Center for Forecasting of Outbreak Analytics, which is funding this initiative. Northeastern is one of five national innovation centers formed by the new CDC center. Overall, 13 centers are part of the agency's new outbreak response network. 

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