Pandemic modelling focuses on answering the “where, when and how” of an infectious disease. Where is it spreading? When will it end? And how can we fight it? Through these analyses, scientists generate projections in real time during public health crises such as the one we’re experiencing with COVID-19 and predict outbreaks in advance—before they become pandemics—which can serve as a global early warning system.
The Centre for Pandemic Readiness will further this critical work in three ways: combine traditional and innovative data collection tools to model and estimate the development and spread of pandemics and other global health emergencies; use foresight and scenario modelling techniques to identify early signs of emerging threats like pandemics; and develop deep expertise and experience in communicating data on pandemics to decision- makers to guide action. This ensures that health agencies can make informed decisions and “buys time” until treatments or vaccines become available.
Using public data, the centre will perform modelling and forecasting that advises on the implications of a disease outbreak, its surveillance, transmission, case management, risk factors, protocols and response. It will also look at the impact on health system capacity and resources, as well as novel disease emergence. The research team will ensure that their work is both transparent and reproducible by adhering to current best practices in infectious disease epidemiology, including generating open source code, using analytical “freeware” (such as the R statistical environment) where possible, and employing or generating publicly available datasets that other researchers can access.
Dr. David Fisman will lead the Centre for Pandemic Readiness. Dr. Fisman is a national authority on the study of emerging infectious diseases—particularly infectious disease modelling—and has been a widely consulted expert during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other DLSPH faculty members will contribute their expertise, including Dr. Ashleigh Tuite, Dr. Beate Sander and Dr. Laura Rosella. They already participate in the Province of Ontario’s modelling table and their work has been used to predict and explain COVID-19 spread and impact in Canada, as well as in Iran and China.
The University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics will also play a role, providing its extensive ethical decision-making capabilities, which have helped to guide responses during the COVID-19 pandemic and H1N1 and SARS crises.