Victoria University of Wellington gains funding for COVID-19 research projects

A project funded by the Health Research Council (HRC) and led by internationally-recognised epidemiologist and Professor of Population Health Colin Simpson from the Faculty of Health has been granted $533,224. Predict and Prevent COVID-19: a data driven innovation project will use advanced data science methods to improve understanding of how infectious diseases can move through a population.

The University team includes data science machine learning expert Dr Binh Nguyen from the School of Economics and Finance, and Professor of Network Engineering in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, Winston Seah.

“We will create new approaches to use genomic data to understand the spread of this disease through the population and incorporate new data in near real-time,” Professor Simpson says. “We will also use detailed human movement and location data to independently model the structure of the population.”

The research is a collaboration with the University of Auckland, University of Otago, Massey University and ESR, and will also draw on expertise from industry.

The funding is from the HRC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Grant established to address New Zealand’s evidence needs in relation to COVID-19, while also contributing to global efforts.

The second project led by Professor Ilan Noy has received $51,436 from the 2020 COVID-19 New Zealand Rapid Response Research Fund to look at the economic risk of COVID-19 for Pacific Island nations.

“We are looking at the current economic risk in each country, in different sectors, and where possible, within Pacific Island countries. We will measure the different exposures, vulnerabilities and resiliences in each country,” Professor Noy says.

He says at this stage there are only a few cases of COVID-19 in Fiji, and none in most of the South Pacific Island countries such as Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomons, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Niue. “Yet, the economic pain is very significant, especially for those countries who are more dependent on trade and tourism.”