SFU to lead new national infectious disease modeling network

April 09, 2021

Simon Fraser University mathematics professor Caroline Colijn will lead a new, national infectious disease modeling network that will inform decisions related to public health threats and better prepare Canada for future pandemics.

Colijn will oversee the Canadian Network for Modelling Infectious Disease (CANMOD), supported by $2.5 million in funding over the next two years. CANMOD is one of five multidisciplinary infectious disease modelling networks receiving a total of $10 million. The funding, announced today by the federal government, will help to strengthen ties between academia, industry and the public sector and improve response coordination.

The networks will be established through a partnership between the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). 

The CANMOD network will increase Canada’s capacity for infectious disease modeling to directly support short, medium, and long-term public health decisions. “Our network comprises collaborative teams of modelers, statisticians, epidemiologists and public health decision-makers,” says Colijn, who holds a Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Evolution, Infection and Public Health. Her network team will be co-led by McMaster University professor David Earn. “These collaborative teams will coordinate a broader community of modelers and statisticians to contribute to—and benefit from—this collective work.”

Colijn, whose modeling and expertise has been central to informing Canada’s COVID-19 response, says questions tackled by the network will be grounded in public health needs and generated in partnerships between research investigators and public health leaders, health administrators and policy-makers.

CANMOD will build and coordinate national capacity by sharing research problems, models and estimates, data files and pipelines, and expertise across a broader community of researchers in academia, industry and the public sector.

The new research networks will work with PHAC to create a comprehensive research consortium, complementing PHAC’s existing modelling initiatives. Together, the networks will identify gaps to increase more targeted infectious disease surveillance, better understand how diseases spread and identify ways to most effectively manage them. 

Committed to increasing equity, diversity and inclusivity in the next generation of infectious disease modelers, the CANMOD network will also train as many as 20 postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students in infectious disease modeling, public health policy and decision making, engaging with a wide community of knowledge users. Trainees will be well-placed for careers in academic, industry and the public sector.