UNB Research

Pan-Canadian Network Involving UNB Researchers working to Model COVID-19 Data

Author: UNB Research

Posted on Sep 17, 2021

Category: Research , Partnerships

Earlier this year, Mathematics for Public Health (MfPH), a pan-Canadian network of multi-disciplinary researchers, announced that the network received $3 million in funding from the federal Emerging Infectious Disease Modelling Initiative. Established by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Initiative pledges $10 million over two years to support researchers who work with public agencies to model the public spread of COVID-19.

MfPH members include UNB faculty members Dr. Sanjeev Seahra, Dr. Lin Wang and Dr. James Watmough, among many academic experts from 21 Canadian institutions and numerous international collaborators.

“We are all collectively interested in developing realistic mathematical models of how COVID-19 spreads through populations, and how it behaves within the human body,” said Dr. Seahra. “Personally, I am most interested in the statistical comparison of models to real data and the estimation of the basic properties of the virus.”

The network is a partnership between Canada’s four regional mathematical science institutes: the Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences, representing Atlantic Canada and headed up by UNB’s Dr. Seahra; the Centre de Recherches Mathématiques, representing Quebec; the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences, representing Ontario; and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, representing western Canada.

The MfPH project builds upon the initial work of the Mathematical Modelling of COVID-19 Task Force, formed by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as part of their COVID-19 rapid research program. Researchers in the network will collaborate to develop models and simulations based on COVID-19 data including daily case counts, hospitalizations, deaths, vaccine administration and travel statistics.

By developing mathematical tools and models, the MfPH seeks to help researchers better understand disease dynamics, and in so doing improve the health outcomes for Canadians.

UNB’s Dr. Watmough is one of the team leads working on MfPH sub-projects. The first examines disease spread based on individual behaviours, modelling data on how how the virus, and vaccines, operate within the human body. The second sub-project studies the mathematics of the immune system.

“The hope is of course that the funding will continue at a reasonable level beyond the two years of this project so that the network we create persists and will still be in place ready for the next pandemic,” said Dr. Watmough, regarding the new funding.

Dr. Watmough is also on the board of directors for OMNI, another COVID-19 research network that received $2.5 million in funding through the initiative and includes participating researchers from UNB.

"There's been a huge increase in the amount of work and mathematical modelling done on diseases," said Dr. Seahra. “These models have been used to create possible spread trajectories, determine transmission factors, and analyze the effectiveness of treatments, including COVID-19 vaccines.”

On June 15, 2021, the MfPH’s inaugural lecture was presented online by French mathematician and Directeur d’études (research professor) at École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Dr. Henri Berestycki, speaking on the topic of Epidemiology modelling with diffusion and the Covid-19 pandemic. Those interested in learning more about the topic can watch Dr. Berestycki’s lecture online.

More information

Dr. Sanjeev Seahra (orcid) | Dr. James Watmough (orcid) | Department of Mathematics and Statistics | Faculty of Science

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