Four Swansea University academics are part of major new research project investigating Covid-19 and what it can teach us about coping with future pandemics.

Biagio Lucini, professor of physics and head of Mathematics Department, Mike Gravenor, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Swansea University Medical School, and Supercomputing Wales senior research software engineers Dr Mark Dawson and Dr Ed Bennett are part of a project aimed at building an open platform for pandemic modelling.

Mathematical modelling of infectious disease transmission is an important tool in forecasting future trends of pandemics. However different models tend to give different results.

Professor Lucini said: “To draw robust conclusions from modelling, it is important to consider multiple models, which can be facilitated by expanding the modelling community, as models tend to reflect the people that develop them, and by bringing models and developers together to compare and contrast their findings.”

The project aims to not only empower the next generation of modellers but also to act as an incubator for a platform for comparisons of infectious disease models both in terms of computers and people.

Professor Gravenor said: “We hope collaboration will enable swift and more robust policy decisions for current and future pandemics.”

It is one of nine studies investigating pandemic preparedness which have been launched by Microsoft. The studies will bring together expertise to examine topics including infection prevention and control, treatment and diagnostics, mental health, and return to work.

These collaborations, made up of leading academics from around the world, will study the critical issues required to understand and respond to the current pandemic as well as better prepare for the future.

Microsoft Chief Scientific Officer Eric Horvitz said: “Bringing together people with expertise, creativity, and passion is the best path forward for addressing difficult challenges with COVID-19. Our efforts today will also bolster our ability to detect and mitigate future pandemics. These collaborations are essential and will lead the way to vital breakthroughs.”

Swansea University