The Global Virome Project: Providing timely data to battle future pandemics

Outbreaks of previously unknown viral and other diseases have the potential to inflict serious and massive negative health and economic impact on the world. A new program, a really big idea, is set to start this year and looks to stay one step ahead of this situation identifying viruses in advance and provide timely data for public health interventions against future pandemics. It’s called the Global Virome Project and joining me to discuss this massive and important endeavor is Chief Scientific Officer with Metabiota, Eddy Rubin, MD, PhD. Visit this link to hear the interview.

Metabiota and African Risk Capacity (ARC) Help African Nations Better Plan for and Mitigate Risk of Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Today, Metabiota, the pioneer in epidemic risk modeling, with over 12 years building disease surveillance, lab diagnostics and response capacity across the African continent, announced it has commenced the modeling work for a trailblazing initiative with the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a Specialized Agency of the African Union (AU), to help Africa’s sovereign nations evaluate their epidemic risk, engage coordinated contingency planning with pilot country ministries, and equip governments with the financial resources to respond to the first signs of a national epidemic. The World Bank estimates the cost of managing the Ebola crisis could have topped $32 billion, with an estimated $2.2 billion lost in the gross domestic product (GDP) in the three hardest hit African countries in 2015 alone. Metabiota’s research shows that outbreaks illustrate distinct patterns and therefore can be insured so that resources, financing, and other risk profiling and contingency planning support can be set up in advance to offset the impact. To read more, visit this link.

Modeling the Casualty Exposures in Epidemics

A casualty actuary might be forgiven for thinking that illness and disease are what those “other” actuaries worry about. Though risk of illness is usually considered the province of the life-health actuary, a session at the 2017 CAS Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, showed how epidemics can affect property-casualty risks. The session also described how to approach modeling those exposures. Speakers intoned that, if done right, the modeling could drive new insurance products. These developments could narrow the insurance gap — the chasm between what is insured and what could be insured. ... Cathine Lam, ACAS, an actuarial associate at Metabiota, continued the session with examples demonstrating how epidemics and pandemics involve property-casualty exposures. She pointed to what happened to a Dallas, Texas, hospital during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and described how the Zika virus befell Miami in 2016. Ebola in Dallas The deadly outbreak (28,000 cases/11,000 deaths worldwide) originated in West Africa. One man who contracted the disease only displayed symptoms after he traveled to Texas. He went to a hospital and died two weeks later. In the meantime, he infected two individuals. The property-casualty exposures include the following: Business interruption. When potential patients learned of possible Ebola exposure, the number of emergency room visits was cut in half. Additionally, the number of patients per day fell by 22 percent and net revenues declined by 25 percent ($12 million). After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the hospital was Ebola-free, revenues returned to normal. Malpractice. The victim’s family sued the hospital. A nurse also sued, alleging that the staff had inadequate training to deal with Ebola victims and that she had suffered a loss of privacy, becoming known as “the Ebola nurse.” And the exposures extended beyond the hospital. A bridal shop that the nurse had visited became known as “the Ebola shop.” It closed. Zika in Miami The 2016 Zika outbreak was the widest ever, Lam said. The virus is generally not dangerous to adults, but a pregnant woman can pass it to her fetus, causing severe birth defects. The first case in Miami occurred in the Wynwood neighborhood, where the CDC had issued a six-week travel advisory. The advisory was later lifted, but at its height, airline travel to the Miami area fell by 17 percent. Revenues from hotel taxes dropped about five percent and the majority of all businesses reported a decrease in revenue of at least 20 percent. The disease being modeled has to originate somewhere. From that point of origin, the amount that the disease spreads depends on the originating state’s ability to combat it. This is reflected in what Lam calls a “Preparedness Index.” Keeping these examples in mind, it takes little imagination to construct an insurance product that would respond to an epidemic. Pricing that product, though, would be a challenge. Epidemics are fortunately rare, Lam noted, so there will never be much historical data from which to project. The alternative was to build a model. Such a model, Lam said, would require a solid scientific foundation. It would be a multidisciplinary exercise, involving knowledge of how diseases spread and how economies are affected, among other things. The result would provide a granular look at how the spread of a disease would affect property-casualty exposures. At a high level, the procedure she described resembles catastrophe modeling, translated to the world of disease. As with a catastrophe model, one models the exposure, creates a catalog of events, and then uses the information to inform pricing and capital decisions. ... Read the full article here.

How the Flu’s Severity Will Effect Healthcare Spending

In addition to starting earlier, this season’s influenza is also remarkable for spreading throughout the United States relatively quickly—with all the continental U.S. states reporting widespread flu activity concurrently for the first time. Since January 1, the CDC has estimated that more than 5% of all doctor’s visits are attributable to influenza-like illnesses—which is consistent with moderately severe flu activity, says Mark Gallivan, MPH, senior data scientist, Metabiota, an epidemic risk analytics company in San Francisco. Flu hospitalizations have also spiked and reported deaths are consistent with the start of a moderate to severe season. Influenza is a serious disease that circulates annually in the United States, resulting in widespread illness. The CDC estimates that influenza-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of 12,000 (during 2011 to 2012) to a high of 56,000 (during 2012 to 2013). The influenza vaccine is recalibrated annually to try and match the anticipated strain, Patrick Ayscue, DVM, director of epidemiology, Metabiota, says. This year, the match is only moderately effective. Read more of this story here.

Think this flu season’s bad? Just wait until The Big One

“It’s pretty much 100% accepted.” Those aren’t the words you want to hear from a leading epidemiologist predicting a second coming of the deadliest flu pandemic in modern history. And this time around, the damage will be much, much greater. CRI sat down with Patrick Ayscue, director of epidemiology at Metabiota, to talk about the current flu strain that has staff grabbing the Kleenex left right and centre in an office near you, but the infectious disease expert was quick to shift attention to flu seasons yet to come.  “This is definitely a bad flu season,” Ayscue says. “It’s one of the worst ones we’ve seen in the last ten years or so, but actually 2014-2015 at this point was a bit worse.” What’s clouding our perception of the severity, he says, is the fact that this year’s flu season started earlier than normal. To read more of this appeared coverage in Corporate Risk and Insurance, click here.

The price of public health: Assessing epidemic risk management

The New Year marks the continuation of a deadly decade for infectious disease outbreaks. With the largest and most deadly outbreaks of cholera in modern history (Yemen and Haiti, respectively), the emergence and outbreaks of MERS in the Middle East and South Korea, the largest Ebola outbreak in history, and the explosion of the Zika virus globally, the 2010s has been a tragic decade for infectious disease outbreaks causing millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths. While the immediate impacts of infectious diseases are devastating for populations worldwide, they also pose significant economic concern for government officials, and, no less, the corporate risk function. For more of the article, click here.

Pandemics: A Worrying Global Public Health Threat

Metabiota authored the chapter "Pandemics: Risks, Impacts, and Mitigation" in the 3rd edition of Disease Control Priorities, funded in part by the Gates Foundation. DCP3 just came out with this great new global health educational video. Check it out by clicking here!  

InsurTech to Open Up Opportunities in Historically Excluded Risks

Epidemic risk modeller Metabiota predicts that in 2018 insurers will focus more on speed with increased appetite for risk to reach the needed returns and innovation in the InsurTech space will make this possible, opening up opportunities in historically excluded risks such as terrorism and pandemics. Metabiota Head of Data Research on Climate Risk, Damien Joly, believes that health risks around the world will increase next year due to the connection between catastrophic weather events and public health. Experts predict the financial impact of a global epidemic amounts to 0.7% of global income, or $570 billion. In 2018 modelling communities are expected to improve and enhance forecasting models with higher resolution and more timely data such as electronic health records and the genetic sequences of pathogens; these innovations could open up multi-billion dollar opportunities for re/insurers in risks that have traditionally been uninsurable. Metabiota said forecasting epidemics is the holy grail of infectious disease modelling and one that looks increasingly achievable in the year ahead. To read more of the story from Reinsurance News, click here.

When, not if: Are you prepared for pandemic risk?

Influenza (the flu) is one of the most common, highly contagious viral infections. It’s something we’re all familiar with, but is your business prepared for when that influenza strain takes the form of something like H1N1? Pandemics historically recur every 30 to 50 years, according to Lloyd’s. There’s reason to worry that the next one could be the worst yet. Increasing global networks and supply chains, rates of travel, and greater concentrations of the population living in cities all leave us more susceptible to infectious disease. The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that a global pandemic event could have an impact of up to US$570bn – a staggering .7% of global income. “This is definitely a top-ten risk cited by most chief risk officers,” said Bill Rossi, CEO of Metabiota, a biotechnology company that uses data and risk analytics to assess infectious disease threats. Mitigation plans for infectious disease epidemics typically focus on the financial losses associated with direct costs, like treatment and response expenses, says a report compiled by Metabiota. The biggest share of costs related to epidemics, though, come from indirect impacts like reduced productivity. The World Health Organization estimates that indirect costs account for over 80% of the economic burden of epidemics. To view the entire article by Corporate Risk and Insurance Magazine, click here.

Metabiota Reveals Top Predictions for Risk Management in 2018

Metabiota Reveals Top Predictions for Risk Management in 2018 Leader in Epidemic Risk Modeling Shares Expertise and Insights for Global Health Community SAN FRANCISCO, CA–December 6, 2017—With more than 400 human disease outbreaks in the past 10 years, the human and economic toll has been extensive. In fact, experts project the impact from a global human pandemic to be around $570 billion or 0.7% of global income. The global health community has reached a tipping point when it comes to leveraging better mechanisms for financing and managing the economic blowback of an outbreak. With that, Metabiota, the pioneer in epidemic risk modeling, is revealing its top trends and predictions for epidemic risk in the year ahead. “From the Madagascar Plague to the Ugandan Marburg virus outbreaks and the continued plight to mitigate the Zika Virus, it is clear that epidemic risk continues to pose a global health threat to communities and organizations worldwide,” said Bill Rossi, CEO of Metabiota. “At the center of this effort are new methods for assessing and insuring risk, and thanks to advances in disease tracking and reporting, software machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can now understand the risk of disease spread more clearly. Metabiota is committed to helping the world become more resilient to epidemics by working with governments and organizations around the globe. Our team is sharing this knowledge and expertise, so that all risk managers can be better prepared in the year ahead and beyond.” Metabiota’s team outlined five different aspects of risk, along with their prediction for what lies ahead in 2018: CEO Bill Rossi on Corporate Risk: Metabiota predicts that 2018 will be the year the Chief Risk Officer takes center stage for corporations, and risk management will be the top priority for CEOs and company Boards. Just as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) role was the toughest job in Corporate America in the 1990s, today Corporate America has a new toughest job – the Chief Risk Officer (CRO). With the proliferation of risk, it is increasingly difficult to keep pace with the current and emerging risks that can threaten a company's business. These include natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods, as well as non-physical risks like cyber breaches and infectious disease spread that can cause major business interruption.   Head of Data Science Nita Madhav on Forecasting Risk: Metabiota predicts that in 2018, the infectious disease modeling community will improve and enhance forecasting models, including higher resolution and more timely data, such as electronic health records and the genetic sequences of pathogens, into forecasting models. Forecasting epidemics is the holy grail of infectious disease modeling and one that looks increasingly achievable in the year ahead. Historically, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has held a flu forecasting challenge to forecast how the flu season will unfold in the U.S. These forecasts rely on different datasets including reported flu cases, social media data, weather data, and other disparate sources; however, they are generally coarse-grained and have only covered the United States. More recently, forecasting challenges have included dengue, chikingunya, and Ebola. With enhanced forecasting capabilities, models can begin tackling a wider range of pathogens, allowing for greater geographic coverage, and ultimately a broader breadth and better precision. These new abilities will be instrumental in allowing for more timely and effective risk assessment and better decision-making by governments and commercial entities before and during epidemics.   Senior Scientist Ben Oppenheim on Global Risk: In 2018, the international community will focus on new initiatives that address the links between global threats. Many of today’s critical risks to human health and well-being are interrelated – from climate change to epidemic outbreaks, armed conflict and natural catastrophes. As a result, a single event has the potential to set off a chain of crises. The challenge is that the current systems that monitor, model, and manage each crisis are not integrated. Two factors will start to break down those silos First, improvements in data (both historical and real-time) and advances in modeling will allow for more sophisticated analyses that shed light on how threats interact—and where governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector can best intervene to mitigate risk. And second, the organizations on the front-lines—NGOs, humanitarian organizations, and others—will increasingly recognize the need to build partnerships, to share data, expertise, and responsibility to respond to complex crises.   Senior Product Manager Cristina Stefan on Insuring Risk: Operating within a low to negative yield environment for more than half a decade, insurers must rethink their growth strategy since they can no longer rely on the financial markets to fill in their margins. Metabiota predicts that in 2018, insurers will begin focusing more on speed and an increased appetite for risk to reach the needed returns. Speed is heavily driven by the insurtech space, where “digital” is the currency. A higher risk appetite is supported by innovation. Rethinking the historical exclusions (terrorism, pandemics) to be able to insure against them for the right price is one such example. Such risks are the so-called “risks without history” and they can support the creation of new markets for insurance.By leveraging big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, predictive modeling is the best way to combine technology, computing power and science to develop innovative insurance products.   Head of Data Research Damien Joly on Climate Risk: Metabiota predicts that in 2018, the links between catastrophic weather events and public health will continue to lead to increased health risks across the world. In 2017, the effects of extreme weather events, such as the widespread monsoon flooding in South Asia or the successive hurricanes in the Caribbean, were particularly felt in countries with fragile or poor public health infrastructure and have led previously manageable, chronic health conditions to crisis situations.  Examples include thousands of reported cases of waterborne disease in Bangladesh following the summer’s floods, and anecdotal reports of disruption of access to health care in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.  Global climate change and associated extreme weather events are linked, and so we predict this trend will continue into 2018, wherein the combination of fragile public health infrastructure and devastating weather events could lead to health crises.   Metabiota’s innovative platform estimates epidemic preparedness and risk, including the frequency, severity, duration and cost of outbreaks. With a powerful combination of epidemic risk analytics, historical data, disease scenarios and insights from public health analysts and global epidemiologists, Metabiota’s platform allows insurers to better understand and underwrite risk. Metabiota’s approach provides the insurance industry, governments and organizations with the data and modeling tools needed to gauge the potential financial impact of a major health event so that risk can be managed in a more effective way.   Link to press release available by clicking here. # # #   MEDIA CONTACT: Aimee Eichelberger