With this research project we want to construct a comprehensive theory to explain how and why emerging epidemic diseases come and go, take off or disappear, and eventually melt into the larger pool of recurrent epidemic diseases. In doing so, we aim to reveal important insights into the major diseases that shaped human society and—crucially—help to prepare for future pandemic threats: the next Disease X.
There is a clear need for models that can answer what will happen over a short period of time given the information at hand. We aim to systematically study historical health data to understand the pandemic and epidemic diseases of the past. Our uniquely powerful tools are mathematical and statistical modeling techniques, including necessary new tools that we will develop. These tools will yield a quantitative understanding of past pandemics that, combined with insights into the social, environmental, economic and demographic context, will allow us to draw a detailed picture of how pandemic and epidemic diseases unfolded before the modern era.