Google.org Selects the UVA Biocomplexity Institute to Support Through Social Good COVID-19 Fund

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September 10, 2020

Charlottesville, VA — Google.org announced today that Madhav Marathe and Anil Vullikanti, researchers at the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute, were selected to receive funding as part of the company’s efforts to support projects using innovative Al and data analytics to help understand COVID-19 and address its impacts.

The Biocomplexity Institute, in partnership with Princeton and the University of Maryland, will receive $140,000 USD in Google.org funds to better understand and address the effects of COVID-19 using AI and data science. Specifically, the Biocomplexity Institute will be working closely with Simon Levin, a James S. McDonell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and Aravind Srinivasan, a Distinguished University Professor and Computer Science Professor at the University of Maryland,to develop COVID-19 test and trace algorithms and use agent-based simulations to analyze their efficacy.

The Biocomplexity Institute has been spearheading epidemiological modeling for COVID-19 since the beginning of 2020. As the pandemic worsened, the Institute created a multitude of COVID-19 Epidemic Response Resources to support healthcare systems and policy makers with making informed decisions regarding resource allocation and interventions. Leveraging their previous work on COVID-19, as well as utilizing the latest algorithms, theories, and available contact tracing data, the team hopes to answer the following questions:

  • how can layered interventions that combine social distancing with testing and contact tracing (human and digital) be designed to control the pandemic;
  • what level of penetration of digital devices and the app together with compliance by individuals will have a tangible impact on epidemic control;
  • what sort of information can be posted by individuals and be made accessible to others that preserves privacy and maintains effectiveness in pandemic control;
  • how much amplification can digital contact tracing have, over and above traditional contact-tracing efforts.

"We are absolutely delighted to receive this grant from Google. With the funding from this award, we will be able to develop innovative computational methods for adaptive surveillance via COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The outcomes of this project will help move us one step closer to managing and mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Madhav Marathe, Distinguished Professor in Biocomplexity and Division Director at the Biocomplexity Institute.

This funding is part of Google.org’s $100M commitment to COVID-19 relief efforts and organizations were selected through a competitive, merit-based review process. The funding focuses on key areas where NGOs and academic institutions have identified significant need, with an emphasis on near-term impact and solutions for vulnerable populations. Focus areas include health equity, disease spread monitoring and forecasting, frontline health worker support, secondary public health effects, and privacy-preserving contact tracing efforts.

“It’s been remarkable to see leaders across different industries, sectors and areas of expertise come together during this critical time in our world’s history,” said Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink, Head of Product Impact for Google.org. “Google.org is proud to support the efforts of these researchers and nonprofits as they work together to better understand and address the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and help establish more equitable solutions to ensure everyone has access to the information and resources they need.”