The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is giving Northeastern University $17.5 million over the next five years to head an innovation center designed to help detect and prepare the United States for the next outbreak of infectious disease, especially in rural areas. Called “EPISTORM: The Center for Advanced Epidemic Analytics and Predictive Modeling Technology,” it will be headed by Alessandro Vespignani, director of Northeastern’s Network Science Institute and Sternberg Family Distinguished University Professor.
With COVID-19, “everybody was caught off guard,” Vespignani says. “We don’t want to be in a situation like that in the future.” “We want to be in a place where there is a National Weather Service for epidemics and epidemic threats,” he says.
CDC funds will help Northeastern coordinate the work of consortium members across the country to work out systems to prepare local communities and hospitals in their geographic region — rural areas will be a top priority — for outbreaks. Seasonal flu and RSV outbreaks already push community hospitals to the brink, Vespignani says.