ORC IAP Seminar 2023

2/1/23 | 9:30am-4:15pm | 6-120

Health Security

Description: The Operations Research Center IAP Seminar will focus on health security, where we explore the use of optimization, data analytics and other contemporary OR methods to support the identification, assessment and response to health threats. The seminar will feature research from leading experts in the field, and we will see the powerful application of operations research to solve challenges including outbreaks of infectious diseases, bioterrorism, and other public health emergencies.

Date: Wednesday, February 1st

Place: Room 6-120


Talk 1 - 9:30am-10:15am

Mike Springer

Associate Professor of Systems Biology; Principal Investigator at the Springer Lab

Harvard Medical School

Preventing and Mitigating Current and Future Pandemics




Mike Springer is an Associate Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School as well as the Principal Investigator at the Springer Lab. He is also a co-director of the newly formed Synthetic Biology HIVE at Harvard Medical and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute. His research focuses on understanding the relationship between genotype and phenotype, with a special interest in how biochemistry, molecular design, and wiring can allow cells to process information from their environment and respond appropriately.


Talk 2 - 10:30am-11:15am

Prashant Yadav

Affiliate Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD; Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development; Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine

Harvard Medical School

Critical Role of Analytics in Global Health Security- A Landscape of Applications and Needs

Infectious diseases have the potential to endanger lives, disrupt economies, travel, trade, and have a significant impact on our mental health. The need for robust prevention, preparedness, and response mechanisms is requires coordinated actions across countries, regions, and other forms of administrative geographical units. Analytics play a key role in health security but become even more critical in managing global decisions as political convergence in decisions across national boundaries depends on analytical rigor. This talk will highlight a range of application areas where analytics play a role in global health security. It will also present opportunities for OR/OM researchers to contribute more effectively to achieve direct policy impact in this area. 



Prashant Yadav is Affiliate Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, and Lecturer at Harvard Medical School. In addition to his roles in academia and think tank, Prashant serves on the boards of Rhia Ventures, Macro-eyes, ARC, and many other healthcare related organizations . In his previous roles Prashant has worked as Strategy Leader-Supply Chain at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Vice President of Healthcare at the William Davidson Institute and Faculty at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan; Professor of Supply Chain Management at the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program. He has also provided expert testimony on healthcare operations and supply chains on multiple occasions in prominent legislative bodies around the world, including the US Congress. Prashant trained as a Chemical Engineer and obtained his PhD in Management Science & Operations Research. He is the author of many peer-reviewed scientific publications, and his work has been featured in prominent print and broadcast media such as BBC, CNN, WSJ, FT, Science, Nature, Wired, and Vanity Fair. Prashant is a chemical engineer by training and has a PhD in Management Science. 


Talk 3 - 11:30am-12:15pm

Kendall Hoyt

Faculty Director, Pandemic Security Initiative; Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine; Senior Lecturer, Thayer School of Engineering

Dartmouth College

Faster Vaccines: Past, Present, and Future

What can we learn from the historical vaccine development campaigns, including the great vaccine race of 2020, to build programs that can run faster? 



Kendall Hoyt is the Director of the Pandemic Security Project at Dartmouth College, an Assistant Professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and a Senior Lecturer at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College where she teaches courses on biosecurity, health systems, and innovation. Her research is focused on health security, innovation policy, and vaccine development. She serves on the US Covid Commission Planning Group. She has served as a consultant for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She is the author of Long Shot: Vaccines for National Defense, Harvard University Press, 2012. 

Kendall Hoyt received her Ph.D. in the History and Social Study of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002. She was a Fellow in the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government from 2002-2004 and a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School from 2017-2019.  Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in the International Security and International Affairs division of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Washington DC office of McKinsey and Company, and the Center for the Management of Innovation and Technology at the National University of Singapore.  


Talk 4 - 2:30pm-3:15pm

Kevin Esvelt

Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences; NEC Career Development Professor of Computer and Communications; 
Director, Sculpting Evolution Group; Co-founder, SecureDNA Foundation

MIT Media Lab

How Can Civilization Withstand a Highly Transmissible, High-Lethality Pandemic? 

Imagine a pandemic more transmissible than omicron, but with a fatality rate of 60%. If essential workers are brave enough to risk their lives, too many will succumb. If they reasonably decline to risk their lives and those of their families, many people will fail to receive the food, water, and energy they need to survive. As law and order break down, societies will collapse. Vaccines are too slow and uncertain to rely on, but if we had pandemic-proof personal protective equipment (P4E) for all essential workers, we could withstand the initial blow and manufacture enough P4E for everyone else. But who is most essential, and where do they live? How many units must be stockpiled, and where, and how will they be distributed? Can stockpiling other materials reduce the number required or the time pressure? Which systems will break down in the absence of international trade, and how can we compensate? We are likely to see a future in which many individuals can single-handedly cause new pandemics. Preparing isn't a matter of developing vaccines, or even P4E. It's a challenge of logistics.



MIT professor Kevin Esvelt leads the Sculpting Evolution Group in advancing biotechnology safely. The creator of synthetic ecosystems to rapidly evolve molecular tools, he is best known for inventing CRISPR-based “gene drive” systems capable of spreading engineered changes from single laboratory organisms to entire wild populations. Esvelt’s lab seeks to safeguard biotechnology against mistrust and misuse by pioneering new ways of visibly working with communities, developing early-warning systems to reliably detect catastrophic biological threats, and applying cryptographic methods to enable secure and universal DNA synthesis screening. Most recently, he has drafted a roadmap to prepare civilization for when pandemic-class agents become accessible to individuals. 


Talk 5 - 3:30pm-4:15pm

Byron Cohen

PhD Candidate in Population Health Sciences

Harvard School of Public Health

Effects of Routine Testing for Accidental Lab-Acquired Infections on the Risk of Escape of Potential Pandemic Pathogens from BSL-4 and BSL-3 Laboratories 

Background: There is increasing concern in the scientific community about the risk an accidental Lab-Acquired Infection (LAI) in a BSL-4 or BSL-3 laboratory leading to the release of a Potential Pandemic Pathogen (PPP) into the community. This paper evaluates the utility of routine testing of lab workers for accidental infection coupled with isolation of infected lab workers to reduce the risk of a catastrophic lab accident. 

Methods: The author constructed a stochastic network infectious disease model to simulate how the probability of an outbreak of a pathogen resembling wild-type SARS-COV-2 following an initial accidental lab-acquired infection is influenced by a variety of test-and-isolate interventions. Key parameters that were manipulated across simulations included test frequency, test sensitivity, and length of average delay from positive test to isolation.  

Results: Simulation results indicated that even relatively infrequent routine testing can substantially reduce the risk of LAIs sparking outbreaks with a PPP, and that the largest risk reductions can be achieved with more frequent testing. The impact of increasing test frequency on the probability of an outbreak was reduced as isolation delays increased. Simulation results also indicated that as test sensitivity increased, the probability of an outbreak occurring decreased. The impact of increasing test sensitivity on the probability of an outbreak was reduced as the length of isolation delays increased. Simulation results also indicated that as the length of isolation delays increased, so did the probability of an outbreak.  The impact of increasing isolation delays on the probability of outbreaks was magnified by increases in test frequency and test sensitivity.


Byron Cohen is a PhD Candidate in Population Health Sciences at Harvard University, based in the Department of Global Health & Population, in the department’s Health Systems track. In his research, Byron uses epidemiological models to evaluate different strategies to optimize infectious disease surveillance for early detection and response to pandemics.  Boston is the organizer of the Boston Biosecurity Working Group, a voluntary association dedicated to promoting shared learning and community-building for biosecurity-interested professionals and students in Boston. He also recently served as a facilitator for a pilot course on Biosecurity Fundamentals offered by Blue Dot Impact. Byron’s prior research experience included working with the World Bank on an impact evaluation of a major clean water and sanitation project in the DRC, working on health systems strengthening research with Harvard’s India Health Systems project, and on projects to help improve clean water access and water governance in the city of Gulu, Uganda. Byron holds an M.P.H. with First Class Honours from University College Dublin, where he studied as a Senator George Mitchell Scholar, and B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics from Claremont McKenna College, where he was elected Phi Beta Kappa and Vanity Fair. Prashant is a chemical engineer by training and has a PhD in Management Science. 


If you have any questions, please contact us via email: orc_iapcoordinators@mit.edu.


Event Time: 

2023 - 09:30