TriCEM awarded grant on “Modeling the Pandemic Lifecycle for Disease Control”

The Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM) received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention (PIPP) program. Funding will support TriCEM’s research on modeling the pandemic lifecycle for disease control. Under the direction of PI Charles Nunn (Duke University) and Co-PIs Michael Emch (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), David McAdams (Duke University), James Moody (Duke University), and David Rasmussen (North Carolina State University), the research will focus on investigating questions about the early stages of disease outbreaks.

Despite considerable effort, infectious disease experts are unable to predict the next major pandemic. Bold new approaches are needed for pandemic prediction, prevention, and mitigation. The research team will investigate the “pandemic lifecycle” – starting from transmission on local contact networks, to regional and then international spread – with a focus on early stages of this lifecycle. During the early stages of an outbreak, an infectious disease spreads among individuals locally through contact patterns; as the outbreak grows, opportunities arise for infections to seed new communities and repeat the process of local transmission. Most transmission goes undetected in these early stages, yet this is when control is most cost-effective and most likely to succeed.

visualization of the scale of an outbreak, moving from local to regional to global

The investigators will use existing data and build on international partnerships and strengths in global health, statistical network sciences, economics, engineering, ecology and evolution, geography, and sociology. Research will investigate how infectious disease and human knowledge interact on human contact networks, the methods and data needed to investigate early stages of outbreaks, and the implementation of new approaches to predict and control outbreaks in the context of the pandemic lifecycle. Findings will allow public health authorities and scientists to better model and monitor future outbreaks, with the potential to reduce disease risk, save lives, and improve economic outcomes globally.

The research activities will provide opportunities for training of six graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher in an interdisciplinary environment. The postdoctoral scholar will lead efforts to develop and apply a simulation model in a pilot study. Graduate students will be given significant roles in working groups and a pilot study, providing them with opportunities to learn team-based science, project management, and leadership skills. TriCEM is excited to lead these efforts to enhance research and provide training opportunities around prediction and prevention of pandemics.

More details are available here. If you are interested in learning more about getting involved in these efforts, please contact Charles Nunn ( or Meredith Spence Beaulieu (