Areas of Focus
The Covid-19 Modeling Accelerator, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, launched in April 2021 to fast-track medical research and provide public health officials with widespread access to Covid-related decision-making tools. Overseen by the Society of Medical Decision Making, the Accelerator provides a unique combination of grant funding and technical assistance to researchers working on the numerous and varied problems engendered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Turgay Ayer, George Family Foundation Early Career Professor in Georgia Tech’s H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), is part of a research team that received funds from the first round of grants. The Foundation recognized the work of Ayer and ISyE Ph.D. student Jade Yingying Xiao, along with their partners from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital – led by Assistant Professor Jagpreet Chhatwal, and Boston Medical Center – led by Associate Professor Benjamin Linus.
Last spring as the Covid-19 pandemic was taking hold in the United States, this multi-institutional team devised the widely used Covid-19 Simulator, which helps inform public health responses to the pandemic on the state and local level. (The simulator website includes other tools created by the team, including an outbreak detection tool and an immunity detector, which shows the proportion of each state’s population with Covid-19 antibodies.)
With the Accelerator grant, Ayer’s team will broaden the Simulator’s impact to inform the timing of each state’s lifted restrictions and a gradual return to normal activities. The Simulator’s recommendations are based on Covid-19 vaccination rates, as well as the new Covid-19 variants that are cause for concern.
“The Covid-19 Simulator mimics current Covid-19 epidemiology and pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions, including public health policies, at the state level,” said Ayer. “With the rapid uptake of vaccines in the United States, the estimations from Covid-19 Simulator show that we could go back to life on a near-normal basis by the end of 2021 or early 2022.”
Throughout his career, Ayer has worked on healthcare analytics, creating models to help slow the spread of various infectious diseases, including Hepatitis C. He also serves as the research director for healthcare analytics and business intelligence in the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems at Georgia Tech and holds a courtesy appointment at Emory Medical School.