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Informatics student at IUPUI helps develop app that may be used to forecast flu outbreaks



INDIANAPOLIS — A bioinformatics master’s student in the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis helped develop a mobile app that one day may be used to forecast outbreaks of seasonal flu and other illnesses.

Sandeep Shantaram and other student researchers developed the prototype application as interns at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the Biosurveillance Mobile App Development Intern Competition, an annual challenge sponsored by the laboratory and the U.S. Department of Defense. The competition was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. 

The mobile app, called FluCast, won the competition and is now undergoing testing and development through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Biosurveillance Ecosystem program. 

The competition focused on exploring solutions to biosurveillance challenges, demonstrating how mobile devices enable access to health care information and resources, making them an ideal option for addressing the needs of digital disease detection.  

“FluCast focuses on risk assessment and seasonal flu forecasting using historic flu case information in correlation with weather data and social media to provide a real-time flu risk assessment,” Shantaram said. A collaboration platform for analytics and an RSS feed of flu-related news and Twitter mentions are other features of FluCast.

“The FluCast app can be used to keep track of what is happening in the biological world, monitor it and draw attention to areas where there might be anticipated issues,” Shantaram said. “The app would provide the ability to capture data like geographic location, track any noticeable issues of concern and provide the information such that protocols could be communicated and implemented to reduce the risk of epidemics or outbreaks, like that experienced with the Ebola outbreak.”

About IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI

The Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing[MW1]  was established in 2000 as one of the first schools in the nation dedicated to education and research in informatics. Informatics uniquely integrates computing, social science and information systems design to study how we use technology to communicate, work and engage. That knowledge is then applied to develop innovative IT solutions impacting our communities, science, health care, entertainment, law and business. The IU School of Informatics and Computing on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offers an array of certificate, B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. programs.

About Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America’s most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of more than $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.