Disease forecasting system takes out National Innovation Awards


Showcasing our scientific research abilities, scientists from Defence and the University of Melbourne have won two innovation awards for disease forecasting at the CIVSEC 2018 Congress and Exposition earlier this month.

Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP congratulated the scientists and said the awards recognised a unique capability.

“This is an exciting development, which aims to predict the outbreak of disease so appropriate health management and prevention measures can be put in place,” Minister Pyne said.

“Last year in Australia, we had over 230,000 confirmed cases of influenza, which costs the economy millions of dollars each year.

“Besides providing a forecasting capability for public health authorities, the innovative system can be used by Defence to protect troops against biological threats and pandemics.

“If we can reliably predict the impact of a seasonal epidemic, we can allocate medical support and resources more effectively to minimise its impact.”

The system comprises a detection tool (EpiDefend) and a forecasting tool (EpiFX) that use health and environmental data to produce a near real-time assessment of the likely presence of disease and how it might continue to spread.

Minister Pyne said for the past two flu seasons, the system has been available to health authorities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to inform their weekly influenza forecasts.

“Soon this revolutionary system could be extended to other states, potentially providing Australia’s first national disease surveillance and prediction system.

“This is a significant innovation not benefiting Defence but the wider Australian community,” Minister Pyne said.

The system was awarded both the CIVSEC 2018 National Innovation Award and CIVSEC 2018 Award for Disaster Relief, Emergency Management and Humanitarian Services.

The Defence scientists recognised were Dr Tony Lau, Dr Peter Dawson, Dr Alex Skvortsov and Dr Ralph Gailis along with Melbourne University co-researchers Professor James McCaw and Dr Rob Moss.