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Ref: Researchers building cybergrid to simulate spread of pandemic

Carolina Wire

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'MIDAS' Project Researchers Will Use TeraGrid to Help Predict Spread of Disease


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- As part of an effort to develop computer-modeling techniques to assist officials in responding to infectious disease outbreaks, RTI International and the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL), part of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, will use the TeraGrid, the world's largest cyber-infrastructure, to develop models projecting the spread of infectious disease.

The National Science Foundation, which funds the TeraGrid, awarded RTI and NDSSL use of the TeraGrid for a two-year period, during which they will develop new methods for mapping large-scale disease models.

"In the past, we have conducted simulations on single cities of up to 19 million people," said Doug Roberts, RTI's leader for the Computational Infrastructure Group of Models for Infectious Disease Agent Study, known as MIDAS. "By using the TeraGrid, we will be able to run simulations of the entire population of the United States, which will provide public and emergency officials with more accurate information to help them prepare for potential disease pandemics."

Roberts and Diglio Simoni, a senior computational scientist at RTI, will be responsible for the tool development effort at RTI. The project will be led by NDSSL.

The project is a part of MIDAS, an initiative sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal of the initiative is to provide policymakers, public health officials and others within the scientific community with the analytical tools and computer models required to respond effectively to infectious disease outbreaks, whether they occur naturally or are released intentionally in a bioterrorist attack.

Using the TeraGrid, the project will develop computational models that represent the interactions between infectious disease agents and their hosts, the spread of disease, prediction systems as well as the effectiveness of response strategies.

The TeraGrid combines the capabilities of nine of the largest supercomputer centers in the country to provide an integrated, persistent computational resource. The TeraGrid coordinates access to high-performance computers, data resources and tools, and high-end experimental resources, as well as providing researchers with access to more than 100 discipline-specific databases.

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