May 14, 2006 10:35 PM PDT

IBM joins effort to prevent pandemics

IBM is working with leading health organizations to save lives by learning how to curb the spread of infectious diseases.

They will do this by utilizing two projects initiated by IBM. The interoperable health care information infrastructure (IHII--pronounced eye-high) is a system capable of data mining--collecting and analyzing information for determining outbreaks and health trends based on data shared by partner medical facilities on things like symptoms, outbreaks and trends being learned about a given disease.

The Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modeller (STEM) then incorporates IHHI information and circumstantial data on the travel and contact of humans, along with myriad other factors, to determine the best way to contain outbreaks.

"With data mining, further modeling can be done," Dr. Diego Buriot, head of the World Health Organization office in Lyon, France, told CNET News.com. "With this information, we could use strategy and react quite rapidly. Being able to provide antivirals, we can control the epidemic at the source."

The programs being launched were borne during a brainstorming session IBM held in the fall of 2005, asking leaders of the health community what a large technology company with its resources could do to help.

"A group of us at IBM took notice of the reports of influenza, obviously the avian flu. We felt we had a lot to offer, and individuals at the company felt some societal responsibility. So we thought we would see what we could do," Joseph Jasinski, program director for health care and life sciences research at IBM, told News.com.

The World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Scripps Research Institute and the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biodiversity are members of the steering committee now guiding IBM in its initiative.

Many of these leaders cited an article in Nature by Donald Burke, who recommended a way to curb disease by strategically distributing a vaccine and offering clinicians a way to spread data rapidly. In order to do this, statistical information on human health patterns, bird migration, human travel, weather and myriad other factors would need to be available and analyzed.

Scripps and IBM are building a joint facility in Florida where Scripps can utilize the biological and geographical spread-tracking systems.

Scripps already does some computational modeling, but it's "not at the scale they (IBM) were able to do and to do it with their order of magnitude using their supercomputers," Lerner acknowledged.

Earlier this week, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) announced a grid-computing project aimed at finding a cure for the virus H5N1, commonly known as avian influenza.

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7 comments

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SARS Meme versus Avian Flu Meme
A comparison of the rate of memetic transmission of SARS versus Avian Flu. They have distinctly similar vector graphs.


<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.realmeme.com/roller/page/realmeme/?entry=sars_versus_avian_flu_meme" target="_newWindow">http://www.realmeme.com/roller/page/realmeme/?entry=sars_versus_avian_flu_meme</a>
Posted by Broward Horne (88 comments )
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Interesting
I love it when wealthy companies throw some of their $$$ at something beneficial to society. If it ends up making them more money end the end then that's great too. Just more money they can throw at similar projects.

Do you think this guy even proofread his own work? A pro editor apparently didn't...
Posted by ianlee74 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting
I love it when wealthy companies throw some of their $$$ at something beneficial to society. If it ends up making them more money end the end then that's great too. Just more money they can throw at similar projects.

Do you think this guy even proofread his own work? A pro editor apparently didn't...
Posted by ianlee74 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IBM takes back offer due to user complaint
Mr. Mad-At-The-World, ianlee74, furiously scribbled:

"I love it when wealthy companies throw some of their $$$ at something beneficial to society. If it ends up making them more money end the end then that's great too. Just more money they can throw at similar projects."

When I first read that, I thought you were serious. But, after reading your second paragraph, I realized you were being sarcastic.

So be it.

"With data mining, further modeling can be done," Dr. Diego Buriot, head of the World Health Organization office in Lyon, France, told CNET News.com. "With this information, we could use strategy and react quite rapidly. Being able to provide antivirals, we can control the epidemic at the source."

When asked if they could help, IBM spokesperson Joseph Jasinski replied, "Well, we were going to, but first we thought we'd take an independent survey, just to see how others felt about it. We talked to a mister ianlee74, and he claimed that it was just another case of Big Business making money off of others' misfortunes, and, rather than risk further public condemnation, we've decided to decline. Try Apple."

Ian then goes on to say:

"Do you think this guy even proofread his own work? A pro editor apparently didn't..."

I've read the article twice now, and can only find one tiny mixtake. The author used "borne" instead of "born". And it's understandable why. After seeing "borne upon the wind", "borne by migrating birds", etc, in every related article for the past six months, it probably just slipped out.

And, if I may be so bold, for someone who wrote, "more money end the end", I'd say you're hardly one to criticize, no?

Oh, one more thing. The author's name is Candace Lombardi.

"Do you think this guy even proofread his own work?"

Candace is a girl's name, dude.
Posted by Joe Bolt (62 comments )
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Global Pandemic Initiative
For more on the WHO, CDC, IBM project to combat global pandemics, see today's post on HealthNex:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://healthnex.typepad.com/web_log/2006/05/global_pandemic.html" target="_newWindow">http://healthnex.typepad.com/web_log/2006/05/global_pandemic.html</a>
Posted by Jack Mason (9 comments )
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More from IBM's Joe Jasinski,Program Director, IBM Healthcare and Life Scie
Here's some further details about the Global Pandemic Initiative that IBM, the CDC, WHO and others are launching today:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://healthnex.typepad.com/web_log/2006/05/ibm_global_pand.html" target="_newWindow">http://healthnex.typepad.com/web_log/2006/05/ibm_global_pand.html</a>
Posted by Jack Mason (9 comments )
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