Google awards $14 million for research using its disease prediction technology
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), has announced grants of more than $14 million to support partners working in Southeast Asia and Africa to help prevent the next pandemic.
Google.org's Predict and Prevent initiative is supporting efforts to identify hot spots where diseases may emerge, detect new pathogens circulating in animal and human populations, and respond to outbreaks before they become global crises. Several new lethal infectious diseases crop up every year. Examples include the well-known killers, HIV/AIDS, bird flu, and SARS, as well as drug-resistant strains of ancient scourges malaria and tuberculosis. Three-quarters of new diseases are zoonoses, meaning they've jumped from animals to humans.
"Business as usual won't prevent the next AIDS or SARS. The teams we're funding today are on the frontiers of digital and genetic early detection technology. We hope that their work, with partners across environmental, animal, and human health boundaries, will help solve centuries-old problems and save millions of lives," said Dr Larry Brilliant, Executive Director, Google.org.
Identifying hot spots
Knowing where to look is critical to disease surveillance. Climate change and deforestation increase human-animal contact, and with it, disease spreads. "The holy grail is to predict disease outbreaks before they happen. For Rift Valley fever and malaria, long-term weather forecasts and deforestation maps can show us where to look for outbreaks, up to six months in advance," said Frank Rijsberman, Program Director, Google.org.
Recipients of grants include:
Detecting diseases earlier
Genetic detection filters viral information in DNA to uncover deadly new pathogens, and digital detection mines online data to reveal early signals of possible epidemics. "We want to stop viruses dead in their tracks — their animal tracks — before they jump to humans," noted Dr Mark Smolinski, Google.org's Threat Detective.
Recipients of grants:
"On every continent, viruses move from animals into people. GVFI's mission is to monitor this viral exchange. Working in animal markets, with restaurant workers, and with hunters at the end of the road, we sort through this traffic to try to stop deadly diseases before they spread," said Dr. Nathan Wolfe, Founder and Director, Global Viral Forecasting Initiative.
For more information and a Google Earth Layer highlighting the grantees, visit http://www.google.org/predict.html
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