Creating an Entirely New Science: Forecasting Illness, Part II


 "Even if we had a fully credible warning of an imminent influenza pandemic, we wouldn't know what to do with it." 
----  Senior Official with U.S. Health and Human Services 

In Part I of my discussion about Ascel Bio (in which I am an investor and board member), I introduced you to the concept of the entirely new science we are creating where we forecast, rather than merely react to, disease and other hazards to human health. To illustrate how this is going to be done, let me offer some analogies from weather science.  

Everyone knows that tornadoes are most common in the spring in the United States. That is climatology --  the average long term weather. Many cities in the central U.S. do tornado drills in early spring. Right now, cities are checking their hurricane preparedness because hurricane season starts on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts on June 1.

Likewise, in medicine, people are told to get a flu shot in late autumn because the flu is most common in the winter. This is the medical equivalent to climatology.  

Of course, in spring, not all days are equal to others in tornado likelihood. Meteorologists know, with a high degree of confidence, which days are going to be especially conducive to tornado development. We do this through a combination of sophisticated computer modeling and human experience and training. When we believe the likelihood rises to reasonable threshold, we issue tornado watches and warnings. 

Surprisingly, until now, medicine has no equivalent to the watch or warning. Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization track disease and react when it occurs (much like emergency management cordons off an area just damaged by a tornado to keep more people from being hurt). 

Ascel is using a combination of computer modeling and human experience to track and forecast outbreaks of disease with an eventual goal of stopping epidemics in their tracks. Lives will be saved. We are going to issue watches and warnings of dangerous disease outbreaks not just to public health officials but to people so they can take charge of their own health and prevent infection.

This is not going to be easy. I'll talk about that in Part III tomorrow. 


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