Dear colleagues, alumni and friends,
As fall begins, I’m writing to share some exciting news and an update on our activities at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD).
While remaining the Director of CCDD, I have begun a new, yearlong role as Director of Science for the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics at CDC. This new center was called for in President Biden’s National Security Memo #1 and was funded in the American Rescue Plan. I’m thrilled about the opportunity to set up this new center and will be reporting directly to my former Harvard colleague (and one of my first students), CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Dr. Rebecca Kahn from CCDD joins me as Senior Scientist. Dr. Kahn was my former student and now postdoctoral fellow who also brings several years of experience working with CDC and other federal agencies before and during her time at HSPH.
For the next year, I am “on loan” to CDC and this will be my primary focus, but I will retain my roles at Harvard Chan School. You can read more about the new center here.
Our CCDD team remains full-steam ahead on COVID-19 research and we’re proud to have made substantive contributions in the below areas, of which these are just a few examples:
- Evaluating vaccines
- Improving disease surveillance
- Disseminating best practices for estimating the epidemic curve and reproductive number
- Developing an innovative way to use quantitative PCR testing at one or a few time points to estimate transmission rates of an infectious disease like COVID-19
- Leveraging mobility data (phone, social media etc.)
- Development of CrisisReady, a network of academics, tech companies and response agencies focused on data-driven decision making
- Science communication for the public
- The Delta Variant and Children’s Health, Aug. 31, 2021
Other recent wins for CCDD include:
- Caroline Buckee and Yonatan Grad will lead a new CDC-funded, 3-year contract to accelerate mathematical modeling to address emerging health threats.
- Buckee will hold a prestigious Harvard Radcliffe Fellowship in 2021-2022.
- We recently learned that our NIH T32 training grant in Infectious Disease Epidemiology will be renewed, offering support for several CCDD student and postdoctoral trainees. There has been a skyrocketing interest and demand in our field, and in my new CDC role I am becoming acutely aware of the need for a public health leadership cadre with the mix of skills that CCDD imparts, ranging from modeling, genomics and quantitative analysis, to a deep understanding of how public health data are generated and aggregated, to how better analytics can inform better decisions. I’m proud that so many CCDD alumni are making key contributions to science and policy in this pandemic. I do not exaggerate by saying that we desperately need more experts like them. I am committed to expanding our CCDD training opportunities and we are actively seeking support—philanthropic and otherwise—to do that.
This fall, many will resume in person education, work and some aspects of pre-pandemic life, albeit in a modified fashion. This is much needed, and I personally look forward to seeing colleagues and trainees in person.
Researchers at CCDD and many others are closely studying Delta. We now know that existing COVID-19 vaccines work well against this variant in preventing death and severe disease, though that protection wanes with time, especially in those at highest risk. An unanticipated piece of good news is that with sufficient boosting, even responses to the original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein can protect us against the major variants to date, which was not initially certain. While I believe that the use of a third vaccine dose is well justified by the science as the best way to protect our population, especially older and immunocompromised people, I also share the concerns of the WHO’s Director General that this move by high-income countries will further constrict the global vaccine supply, a dilemma that underlines the need to increase and globalize manufacturing capacity.
Wishing you good health as we enter this new phase of the pandemic.
Marc Lipsitch, DPhil
Professor of Epidemiology
Director, Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health