Disease-tracking technology wins DHS award

April 9, 2010
| By: Aubrey Bloom

James A. Wall, deputy director of the Texas Center for Applied Technology (TCAT), and Keith E. Biggers, a researcher with TCAT, were members of the team that was awarded the 2010 Science & Technology Impact Award from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The team from the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD) that consisted of Wall and Biggers, along with John T. Hoffman and Neville P. Clarke, was honored for its online "information dashboard" that can improve the nation’s response to a major disease outbreak. The system, which is known as the Bio-surveillance Common Operating Picture, or BCOP, was developed by the FAZD Center to enhance the work of the DHS National Bio-surveillance Integration Center (NBIC).

FAZD was honored for rapidly deploying the technology for DHS during the global H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009. FAZD researchers built, tested and launched the BCOP in weeks rather than months as originally scheduled.

BCOP enable DHS to track, organize and share information about outbreaks of contagious disease from around the world on a daily basis. This allows DHS to more rapidly prepare its response to outbreaks that may threaten the United States.

The BCOP uses information dashboard technology to provide real-time access to multiple Web sites, live data feeds, news feeds, streaming video, maps, images, key documents, information banks and other information resources as needed to enhance surveillance, response and training for biological crises such as contagious disease outbreaks.

Planning is currently under way to increase access within NBIC to 20,000 BCOP users. Other government agencies and commercial customers have asked the FAZD Center about developing specific dashboards for their needs.

Wall and Hoffman, who is a senior research fellow both at the DHS National Center for Food Protection and Defense (University of Minnesota) and the FAZD Center, were the principal investigators on the project. Biggers was an investigator on the project and Clark is the former director of the FAZD Center.

About TCAT

The Texas Center for Applied Technology, part of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, promotes economic growth and enhanced quality of life by implementing a spectrum of activities including basic and applied research, development and prototyping, and application to enable economic benefit and technology development throughout Texas and the Nation.

About FAZD

The FAZD Center is headquartered at Texas A&M and is a DHS Center of Excellence representing seven major universities, 10 Minority Serving Institutions and five National Laboratories.

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