Skip to content

Aspen Award 2016 – The Winning Entry

  • Research
  • 30 March 2016

        The Award Committee of the Aspen Institute Italia Award has decided that the winning entry for 2016, the first year of the prize, is the research study entitled:

        Spatiotemporal spread of the 2014 outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia and the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions: a computational modelling analysis

        The work was judged as meriting the Award on the basis of its scientific value, its concrete application to a problem of major health and social importance, and its noteworthy innovative and interdisciplinary significance. Indeed, the study falls within the new scientific branch of computational epidemiology – where life sciences meet sophisticated mathematical techniques and epidemiology – which collects field data.

        The study was undertaken through the collaborative efforts of five scientific organizations – two Italian and three American – with the participation of following ten researchers:

        1) Bruno Kessler Foundation – Trento – ITALY

        co-authors of the study: Stefano Merler, MS; Marco Ajelli, PhD; and Laura Fumanelli, PhD.

        2) ISI Foundation – Institute for Scientific Interchange – Turin – ITALY

        co-author of the study: Luca Rossi, PhD.

        3) Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems (MOBS-LAB) – Northeastern University, Boston, MA – USA

        co-authors of the study: Prof. Alessandro Vespignani, PhD; Marcelo F.C. Gomes, PhD; and Ana Pastore y Piontti, PhD.

        4) Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA – USA

        co-authors of the study: M. Elizabeth Halloran, DSc; and Dennis L Chao, PhD.

        5)  Department of Biostatistics, College of Public Health, Health Professions, and  Emerging Pathogens Institute – University of Florida, Gainesville, FL – USA

        co-author of the study: Prof. Ira M. Longini Jr, PhD.

        The winning entry was published in January 2015 in the prestigious scientific journal “The Lancet Infectious Diseases”. The study aimed to construct a computational model of the spread of the Ebola virus, based on the spatiotemporal movements and concentration of both infected and non-infected individuals during the Liberian epidemic in 2014. The recent epidemic of Ebola in West Africa is by far the most serious observed so far. The resulting findings have highlighted the importance of the different types of interventions employed by health authorities to combat the epidemic, such as the opening of dedicated health centers for patients with Ebola. From the perspective of the study’s potential applications, the results obtained offer a significant contribution to the formulation of intervention plans to stem future epidemics of Ebola, which could break out again in Africa, while limiting their impact in other parts of the world such as Italy or the United States. In the event of a renewed “war” on the disease arising, the study provides tools to predict the enemy’s next moves, plan the allocation of resources, optimize vaccine distribution, and forecast future scenarios.