Gates Foundation grant funds infectious disease project

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State researchers will be part of an international team led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to help evaluate new vaccines that will have the best chances of stopping the global outbreaks of infectious diseases. The project has received a $10 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Vaccine Modeling Initiative is a research partnership among infectious disease modeling teams at the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State and Imperial College London, headquartered at Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health. The project also involves collaborations with world leading infectious disease experts, computational modelers and public health officials at Johns Hopkins University, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Medecins Sans Frontieres Epicentre, University of Georgia, Resources for the Future and the World Health Organization.

Bryan Grenfell, Penn State alumni professor of biology, is one of two co-principal investigators named in the grant.

Grenfell, a population biologist who is studying the seasonal fluctuations of measles epidemics in Niger, will work with his Penn State colleagues Edward Holmes, professor of biology, Matt Ferrari, research associate in biology, Ottar Bjornstad, professor of entomology and biology, Murali Haran, assistant professor of statistics, Reka Albert, associate professor of physics and biology, and Alan MacEachren, professor of geography. Their collaboration centers on Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics.

The epidemic models they develop will be designed to fit the prevalence, incidence and geographic spread patterns of past epidemics in developing countries, and will help prevent future infectious disease epidemics by optimizing vaccine strategies for particular diseases and regions.

Initially, the project will focus on evaluation of new vaccine technologies for influenza, measles and dengue, a mosquito-borne infection. Later, the project will develop vaccine models of epidemic pertussis, rotavirus, polio, pneumococcus, malaria, tuberculosis and other infections.

The ultimate goal is to guide public health experts across the globe in making decisions about vaccine strategies that are most likely to succeed.

Contacts: 
Last Updated November 18, 2010