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Computer modeling targets epidemics, bioterror

A new initiative harnesses our nation's computing skill to enhance our ability to respond to disease epidemics and bioterrorism. The initiative, called MIDAS, will develop powerful computer modeling techniques to analyze and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, whether they occur naturally, such as SARS, or are released intentionally in a bioterrorist attack. MIDAS (an acronym for Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study) is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that has a strong interest in bioinformatics and computational biology.

NIGMS recently awarded the first four grants in this new initiative, totaling more than $28 million over five years. Three of these grants will support the creation of mathematical models to study various aspects of infectious disease epidemics and community responses. These research grants together total $9.5 million over five years (averaging more than $640,000 per grant for the first year). A fourth award, totaling $18.8 million over five years ($3 million for the first year), funds researchers to develop a central database to organize information from the other three groups. It also supports the development of user-friendly computer modeling tools for the broader scientific community, policy makers and public health officials to use to simulate epidemics and response strategies.

"MIDAS will play a key role in the NIH biodefense plan," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., NIH director. "The computer models created through this initiative will help us determine the best strategies to detect, control and prevent the spread of disease."

MIDAS will bring together interdisciplinary teams of scientists with expertise ranging from mathematics and computer science to epidemiology, genetics, and public health. The network of MIDAS scientists will be guided by a steering committee of investigators with broad expertise in modeling, infect
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Contact: Alisa Zapp Machalek
alisa.machalek@nih.gov
301-496-7301
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
4-May-2004


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