Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer

Caroline Colijn has been selected to lead a multidisciplinary team of researchers in a new modelling network program of infectious diseases. The Canadian Network for Modelling Infectious Disease (CANMOD) “is one of five multidisciplinary infectious disease modelling networks receiving a total of $10 million” and is a piece of Justin Trudeau’s $1 billion COVID-19 support plan.

The government of Canada reported this network aims to strengthen the relationships between the public, industry, and academic sectors in Canada. This intends to ensure Canada can better respond to public health threats or infectious disease outbreaks in the future.

In an email statement to The Peak, Colijn outlined the areas of research within the project. 

“There are several themes: evolution and genomics for SARS-CoV-2, the role of testing in the current and future pandemics/emerging infectious diseases, vaccination, heterogeneity, and syndemics,” said Colijn. 

According to the BC Medical Journal, syndemics as a concept recognizes that “pandemics occur in the context of preexisting social and health conditions.” It said “that some epidemics or pandemics would not occur [ . . . ] on a population if the public’s social and biological vulnerabilities to infections were reduced.”

Colijn said, “We hope to have better data integration and sharing, a strong infectious disease modelling, and estimation community standing ready with close ties to public health labs and institutions across the country.”

Colijn’s team is made of epidemiologists, modellers, and statisticians who will work with the Canadian public health sector and public health institutions.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, “Infectious disease modelling has been a crucial part of the pandemic response,” said Colijn. This data can be used to understand how the disease spreads and mutates across communities.

Some of the team members were integral parts of modelling in British Columbia. That data was used to support decisions around “vaccine rollout including the dosing strategy and the prioritization of essential workers and high-risk neighbourhoods,” said Colijn. 

According to Colijn, this team has committed to equitable and inclusive hiring. “EDI is important because diverse voices and viewpoints help us frame better questions and help bring a diversity of expertise and perspectives to the work we do,” said Colijn.

The network within the public, industry, and health sectors will be coordinated through the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.