Denmark (Denmark) The Carlsberg Foundation grants DKK 10 million for research in mathematical pandemic models

Since January 2020 the ongoing Corona pandemic has thrown the world into a deep health crisis. The Carlsberg Foundation therefore grants DKK 10 million to a new Semper Ardens project for the development of mathematical models to predict the potential development of future epidemics. Professor Lone Simonsen at Roskilde University will lead this Semper Ardens project.

In countries like the USA, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, modelling is a natural part of planning for epidemics. Such planning is e.g. used to predict public-health scenarios and to point to strategies on how to best react to epidemics.

The Carlsberg Foundation grants DKK 10 million to a Semper Ardens research project to develop better models to explain how and why outbreaks of new viruses sometimes – but not always – develop into global pandemics. The models will also be used to predict how pandemics start, disappear, or eventually merge into the larger pool of recurring seasonal viruses.

The project, led by Professor Lone Simonsen at Roskilde University, will provide important new insights into the major epidemic diseases that have shaped human society and, not least, help prepare us for future pandemic threats in the form of the next disease X.

Need for new clearer understanding of Covid-19

Professor Lone Simonsen states:

“We have now learned that new pandemics are not always influenza A viruses, as has been the case for the last 100 years. We must go further back in time to expand our experience, and in this situation, our group is very strong compared to the rest of the world, due to the excellent historical data in Scandinavia. Our research at Roskilde University focuses on studying and mathematically modeling historical and contemporary pandemics to understand their unique characteristics in spread and mortality. The research focuses on building knowledge that can provide a new and clearer scientific understanding of the current Covid-19 pandemic as well as of future pandemic threats. In the longer term, it is important to understand how the corona epidemic is affected by cross-immunity with the existing cold viruses of the same family”.

Tolls for predicting in early stages

Professor Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of the Carlsberg Foundation, states:

“In Denmark, there has been a limited tradition of using mathematical modeling as a tool to understand the spread of epidemic diseases in the human population. It is necessary to predict the spread and mortality of an epidemic, as well as the effect of medical and non-medical measures to control them. However, as currently illustrated by the severe Corona pandemic, there is a strong need for models which can show how disease spread will occur over a shorter period of time. Therefore, the Carlsberg Foundation is now allocating DKK 10 million to a Semper Ardens project to develop a more secure tool for analyzing and predicting the development of future pandemics at an early stage in the process”.

At Roskilde University, Lone Simonsen has gathered a small group of internationally educated researchers from mathematics and epidemiology who have been using Danish data for several years to analyze data from the five most recent major influenza pandemics (in 1889, 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009). These researchers have also looked at the large outbreaks of cholera, polio, measles, whooping cough and Ebola, which show many of the same features as actual pandemics.

More info

If you want to specialise in mathematical modeling of health and disease developments, ecology, or mathematical methods in the area of bioscience, you might be interested in Mathematical Bioscience.

100 years: Knowledge of the Spanish flu enhances our preparedness for future pandemics


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