The world’s most advanced centre for disease and emergency analytics is where Imperial’s scientists are leading the response to the coronavirus.
Headquartered at Imperial College London, J-IDEA, the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics, was setup last year to rapidly respond to emergencies such as pandemics, extreme climate events, and natural and humanitarian disasters.
And just weeks after it was launched, reports of the first cases of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, emerged from Asia.
Imperial’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (MRC-GIDA) is leading the College’s COVID-19 epidemiological response, working closely with institutes across the School of Public Health under the umbrella of J-IDEA, as the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team.
Rapid outbreak response
Since January the MRC-GIDA and J-IDEA teams have responded rapidly to the emerging coronavirus threat.
They have analysed the continuously changing data in real-time, and produced more than a dozen reports led by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis and key J-IDEA researchers, on the pandemic, which have informed governments and health services around the world.
The Director of J-IDEA and MRC-GIDA, Professor Neil Ferguson, is leading the team of epidemiologists, biostatisticians, medics and data scientists whose work has been critical to the global response to the coronavirus crisis.
Professor Neil Ferguson said: “The world is facing the most serious public health crisis in generations. Here we provide concrete estimates of the scale of the threat countries now face.”
Influencing global leaders
J-IDEA’s world-leading scientists have been central to informing global leaders on the pandemic’s outbreak and the effect of possible strategies to control the outbreak.
The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and Science and Technology Committee regularly hear evidence from J-IDEA’s scientists.
Recently, Professor Ferguson told MPs that the current UK lockdown could keep the coronavirus outbreak at manageable levels.
The team’s report with the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, – which predicted 2.2million deaths in the US if no action was taken – also influenced the White House’s strategy among other countries.
Professor Ferguson also hosted a special webinar for the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform where he updated government and business leaders on the pandemic.
Supporting low and middle income countries
When J-IDEA launched, Fady Jameel, President, International of Community Jameel, spoke about the importance of making an impact in low and middle income countries.
Fady Jameel said: “Imperial is a world-leader in data science, public health and turning research discoveries into societal benefit.
“J-IDEA will accelerate the development of this expertise into effective and affordable interventions in low and middle-income countries.”
The Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team predicted that without any preventative measures the coronavirus could have infected 7 billion people globally and caused in the region of 40 million deaths this year.
The report found that the effects of the pandemic are likely to be most severe in developing countries.
There will be 25 times more patients needing critical care than beds available, compared to seven times more in high-income countries, the report says.
Professor Ferguson said: “Countries need to act collectively to rapidly respond to this fast-growing epidemic.
“Sharing both resources and best practice is critically important if the potentially catastrophic impacts of the pandemic are to be prevented at a global level.”
In an interview with Voice of America, Professor Kalipso Chalkidou warned about the possible impact of the pandemic in refugee camps.
Many camps are in countries with stretched or under-resourced health systems, such as Kenya, Bangladesh, Iraq and Lebanon.
Professor Chalkidou said: “They’re already operating at a very high capacity, and so the question is: Will they be able to redeploy to accommodate people who live in camps?”
A report by J-IDEA’s Professor Helen Ward found that the vast majority of the UK public are washing their hands more regularly, but only half avoided crowded areas and social events over the past week.
Professor Ward, said: “While it is encouraging that people are aware and taking some steps to protect themselves and others, there is a need for everyone to take far more action on social distancing if we are to stem the epidemic.
Professor Ward added: “Responding to an emerging infection such as this novel Coronavirus is a major challenge for health systems and the public, but also for scientists carrying out rapid research to provide evidence-based solutions.”
J-IDEA has also published a free course on COVID-19 on Coursera called Science Matters: Let’s Talk about COVID-19.
On the course, world-class experts explain the theory behind the analyses of COVID-19 and its spread, and how to interpret new information using core principles of public health, epidemiology, medicine, health economics, and social science.
J-IDEA is co-founded by Imperial College London and Community Jameel, the global philanthropy established by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel KBE.
Speaking at the time of J-IDEA’s launch, Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: J-IDEA will bring our world-leading researchers together with a new sense of energy and urgency to pursue some of the most important public health work in the world.
“Community Jameel’s foresight in creating this partnership will have a profound global impact for generations to come.”