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UMN Receiving $1M Grant for Ebola Research

Date: October 7, 2015

UMN Receiving $1M Grant for Ebola Research

A University of Minnesota institute has been awarded $1M to develop tools to support early identification of disease outbreaks and strengthen health care supply chains.

SAINT PAUL, MN – The Food Protection and Defense Institute, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence based at the University of Minnesota, has been awarded a $1 million grant by the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program to utilize “big data” and predictive analytics to identify emerging disease outbreaks and improve the resilience of health care supply chains in the wake of the Ebola crisis.

“The Institute will leverage our current research and development with global food systems to create new novel technologies that will be able to address public health issues in a future disease crisis,” said Amy Kircher, DrPH, Director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute.

The Institute has partnered with the World Food Programme, the United Nations’ mandated leader for humanitarian logistics and emergency response in crises, on this project to establish virtual supply chain protocols and processes to more effectively and efficiently execute in future emergency response efforts.

Health care supplies are distributed through global supply chains and are comprised of multiple complex systems that move product to treatment facilities. Due to the nature of these systems, product is produced and delivered based on expected demand. Unexpected and significant deviations in this demand create vulnerability in the ability to respond to disasters.

“The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has highlighted the rigid nature of health care supply chains,” notes Dr. Kircher. “The established production and supply chains leave little resilience in the supply chain disaster response.”

Recent research at the Institute focuses on the use of data to predict, identify, and respond to food system disruptions, as well as the use of FPDI-developed technologies to strengthen supply chains. Food and medical supplies chains share much in common, including that both are complex and global. The timely, uninterrupted flow of both food and medical supplies are essential to everyone.

A disruption in the supply chain of either food or medical supplies will have far reaching effects, particularly during a crisis situation. The Institute will apply knowledge of and technology solutions designed for food system disruption prediction and response to disease outbreak prediction and response. Dr. Kircher says their work in this area makes them uniquely positioned to tackle how data informatics and analytics can advise and create a resilient supply chain during an emergency.

The Paul G. Allen Ebola Program is the only program of its kind solely focused on stopping the ongoing West Africa Ebola outbreak. They have awarded 6 other grants that will help address global health innovation challenges in three areas: infrastructure and logistics, diagnostics, and data strengthening and coordination. Through these grants and the overall program, the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program is committed to ensuring that a health emergency like the West Africa Ebola outbreak never happens again for the same reasons. The Paul G. Allen Ebola Program is managed by Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc.

About the Food Protection and Defense Institute: Located on the University of Minnesota campus, the Food Protection and Defense Institute takes a comprehensive, farm-to-table view of the food system, encompassing all aspects from primary production through transportation and food processing to retail and food service. To learn more, please visit


FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES: Food Protection and Defense Institute / Kendra McCormack / / 612-626-6406