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Infectious disease modellers recognised for pandemic modelling work

From L to R: Drs Robert Challen, Ellen Brooks Pollock OBE, Leon Danon, Emily Nixon and Amy Thomas Desmond Lai

10 November 2022

University of Bristol academics, Drs Ellen Brooks Pollock OBE, Leon Danon, Robert Challen, Amy Thomas and Emily Nixon have been recognised for their epidemiological modelling work supporting the UK government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Drs Ellen Brooks Pollock OBE, Leon Danon and Robert Challen, have been awarded the prestigious Weldon Memorial Prize along with other members of the SPI-M-O group, which reports to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

Additionally, Drs Leon Danon, Robert Challen, Amy Thomas and Emily Nixon were awarded the SPI-M-O (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling group) Award for Modelling and Data Support (SAMDS) which recognises those who have made an exceptional contribution to the work of the group outside of their usual work activity.

The Weldon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by the University of Oxford for ‘noteworthy contributions in the development of mathematical or statistical methods applied to problems in biology’. This is the first time in its history that the prize, which has been awarded since 1911, has been given to a group rather than an individual.

Under great pressure to deliver results quickly, and under immense public scrutiny, the group built on existing science and developed new epidemiological and statistical techniques to understand the spread of the virus and how it might be controlled.

Dr Ellen Brooks-Pollock, on behalf of the Bristol research team, said: “It was a privilege to be part of the COVID response in the UK. We are honoured to have had our work recognised with this prestigious award. The prize is testament to the collaborative efforts of the entire SPI-M-O team who worked relentlessly under enormous pressure to help advise the government manage and plan the easing of lockdown, including for the partial re-opening of schools in June 2020, the full re-opening of schools in September 2020 and the vaccination rollout.”

The prize is being awarded to the SPI-M-O group on Monday 14 November at the University of Oxford.

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