Modelling and Simulation

The Modelling and Simulation unit considers the complex biological and social systems underpinning the study of infectious diseases, engaging national and international collaborators in basic sciences, psychology, sociology, ethics and urban planning. The group’s research projects targets individuals and populations.

The unit’s models provide valuable frameworks to describe epidemic characteristics, assess likely benefits of public health interventions and estimate risks associated with emerging diseases. By using scenario analysis modeling, the best intervention strategies can be identified. This is necessary because of the rising costs of new vaccines and pharmaceuticals and a finite capacity to deliver interventions in places with limited resources.

The unit’s work has informed national policy for influenza pandemic preparedness and real-time response in Australia by working with the Australian Government Office of Health Protection and World Bank-funded avian influenza preparedness projects in Mongolia. Insights regarding drivers of resurgent pertussis disease, relevant to control, have informed the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, and the World Health Organisation’s Pertussis Working Group.

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Dr Patricia Campbell
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (off campus)

The Modelling and Simulation Unit undertakes projects in four main areas.

1. Understanding the host-pathogen interaction in infectious diseases

  • Development of mathematical and statistical methods to study in vivo pathogen dynamics (with case studies in influenza and malaria)
  • Modelling the development and consequences of drug-resistance
  • Determining the mechanisms of temporary immunity and susceptibility to influenza virus infection
  • Explaining relatedness and diversity in Group A streptococcal populations, to inform predictions of likely vaccine impact.

2. Evaluating and predicting population-level disease trends in time and space

  • Translating insights from animal models and historical studies into population models of disease transmission and control
  • Identifying drivers of vaccine-preventable disease epidemiology, to determine optimal vaccine scheduling (with case study in pertussis)
  • Evaluating the spatio-temporal spread of influenza in Melbourne with applications to epidemic forecasting, assessment of hidden biases in surveillance systems and disaster-response planning
  • Tracking changes in influenza viruses circulating in the human population over the last century, to determine likely trends in immunity and sensitivity to emerging strains.

3. Identifying the demographic and sociological determinants of infection spread in populations

  • Simulating the impact of demographic transitions on infection transmission, and likely vaccine impact
  • Defining household and local area influences on social connectedness, to understand differences in health status associated with disadvantage.

4. Translating insights from models into policy and practice

  • Informing pandemic preparedness and response in Australia and overseas
  • Using model-derived insights to inform local vaccine policy
  • Improving communication of uncertainty and complexity in scientific advice for policy makers
  • Developing ethical guidelines and principles for research in an era of pervasive data
Funding: 
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Australian Research Council
  • Australian Government Office of Health Protection
  • Defence Science and Technology Organisation
  • VicHealth
  • Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network
  • Melbourne School of Government (University of Melbourne)
  • Carlton Connect Initiatives Fund (University of Melbourne)
  • Victorian Government Department of Health
Collaborations: 
  • Professor Angela McLean, Department of Zoology and All Soul’s College, University of Oxford
  • Professor Matt Keeling, Departments of Mathematics and Life Sciences, The University of Warwick
  • Assoc/Prof Jane Heffernan, Centre for Disease Modelling, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, York University, Toronto
  • Dr Joshua Ross, School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Adelaide
  • Professor Peter Taylor and Professor Kerry Landman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne
  • Professor Anne Kelso, A/Prof Aeron Hurt, Dr Karen Laurie; World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza
  • Professor Peter Doherty, Professor Anne Kelso, Professor David Jackson, Professor Weisan Chen, Professor Lorena Brown, Assoc/Prof Katherine Kedzierska; NHMRC Program Grant ‘Limiting the Impact of Influenza’
  • Prof Heath Kelly, Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory
  • Prof Peter McIntyre, Director, National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Children’s Hospital Westmead and University of Sydney
  • A/Prof Emma McBryde, Head of Epidemiology of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service, Royal Melbourne Hospital; Principal Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne and Head, Modelling & Biostatistics, Burnet Institute
  • Professor Leann Tilley, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio 21 Institute
  • A/Prof Julie Simpson, Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population & Global Health, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Peter Dawson, Dr Ralph Gailis, Dr Tony Lau, Land Division, Defence Science Technology Organisation
  • Dr Deb Warr, McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, Melbourne School of Population & Global Health, The University of Melbourne
  • A/Prof Matt Duckham, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, The University of Melbourne
  • Professor Garry Robins, MelNet Group, Department of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne