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20 July 2018

Informatics researchers awarded $75,000 PLuS Alliance Accelerator Award to study avian flu

A team involving Dr Kathleen Steinhofel, Reader in the Department of Informatics, has been awarded a $75,000 PLuS Alliance Accelerator Award to study how avian flu mutates and spreads. Kathleen, Matthew Scotch of Arizona State University and Professor Raina Macintyre of UNSW will develop a risk model to pinpoint future bird flu outbreaks, improving security globally against future outbreaks.

Graphic of virus cells

Beginning in July, researchers from the three universities will spend four months in Australia analysing data from reported outbreaks as well as genetic sequence data from the H5N1, H7N9 and H5N2 strains of avian flu, known as 'bird flu.'

Also involved from the Department of Informatics are Dr Grigorios Loukides and Patrick Veenstra, as well as the Computational Biology lab at the Francis Crick Institute, where Kathleen completed a sabbatical.

The investigators hope that by bringing together outbreak data and the genetic data of bird flu strains, they will be able to develop a risk model of the various strains, as well as establishing the environmental influences that increase the risk of outbreaks.

By knowing how quickly bird flu strains can evolve and which environmental factors cause mutations, scientists may be able to predict where the next outbreaks will take place, allowing more preparation time and reducing the possibility of a pandemic.

This project is funded by PLuS Alliance, a partnership of ASU, UNSW Sydney and King’s College, launched in 2016 to promote research-based solutions for global issues around sustainability, global health, social justice and technology and innovation.

In this story

Grigorios Loukides

Senior Lecturer in Computer Science

Kathleen Steinhöfel

Reader in Computer Science