Modelling and controlling infectious diseases

China’s large population, fast-growing economy, rapidly evolving social networks, and changing environment have made controlling infectious diseases a challenge. As people become more mobile, the success or failure of managing the spread of communicable disease will have significant repercussions within and beyond China’s borders.

To effectively predict disease transmission and develop good public health policies, high quality data and a comprehensive system to analyze that data are needed. Epidemiological surveillance tools, however, have not yet taken full advantage of mathematical models to compare strategies to inform decision-making during a disease outbreak.

The research

The research team is exploring the potential of mathematical modelling to inform a new generation of tools and approaches to control disease spread. Drawing on research and surveillance data from China’s National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, the team is creating disease models, focusing first on HIV. Recognizing the different transmission pathways, the team is investigating at-risk populations in several regions of China. The team is also collaborating with health service agencies to design prevention policies, which will be evaluated over the duration of the program. 

The overall objective is to enhance China’s national capacity for analyzing, modelling and predicting transmission dynamics of infectious diseases through joint research, training young scientists, and building collaborative relationships.

The specific objectives are to:

  • develop, validate, and utilize mathematical models to analyze and predict the dynamics of communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis, using surveillance data and prospective cohorts from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • provide support for public health policy by delivering improved evidence-based data developed using model-assisted analyses and predictions;
  • train young scientists in applying cutting-edge mathematical modelling and analysis techniques in an interdisciplinary public health setting;
  • organize workshops and professional exchange events that improve collaboration among trainees, researchers, and public health officials in China and Canada, as well as with other international collaborators; and
  • extend the training and modelling applications from this project to other countries with similar challenges and opportunities for professional and strategic alliances.

Expected outcomes 

The project aims to:

  • identify gaps in available data and create new data sources to improve public health decision- making in China;
  • provide scientific strategies to prevent and treat diseases in China through disease transmission modelling;
  • train a large number of students at the Chinese Center for Disease Modelling to carry out rigorous analyses in the domain of public health; and
  • extend the program to India and other African countries to build capacity in public health policy based on disease modelling.

Lead Researchers

Yiming Shao

IDRC Research Chair in Modelling and Management of Communicable Diseases National Center for AIDS/STO Control & Prevention, China 

Yiming Shao is the Chief Expert on AIDS at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Director of the Department of Research on Virology and Immunology at the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention. A driving force in China for interdisciplinary research and evidence-based public health policy formation, Shao is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, where he has championed reforms to China’s health system and improvements to its medical research capacity. Shao played a leading role in establishing the National AIDS Reference Laboratory and three national networks (HIV testing, molecular epidemiology, and drug resistance) that provide leadership and technical support for HIV/AIDS detection and related research in China and with other international partners. Among his ground-breaking projects is research on a HIV vaccine that has since led to clinical trials.

Yiming Shao sits on three of the World Health Organization’s advisory committees and on the scientific board of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health program. He holds numerous awards, including the National Award for Progress in Science and Technology, and the National Outstanding Young Scientist and Young Expert Award. He has published more than 400 research papers in national and international journals.

Jianhong Wu

Canada Research Chair in Industrial and Applied Mathematics York University, Canada 

Jianhong Wu has been a professor at York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering since 1990. A Canada Research Chair in Industrial and Applied Mathematics, he directs the MITACS Centre for Disease Modeling and the Laboratory for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Wu’s contributions in both pure and applied mathematics are internationally recognized. Leading a national team of scientists from universities, public health research institutes, and government agencies, he has worked on modelling and qualitative analysis of issues of critical importance to the prediction, control, intervention and prevention of emerging infectious diseases such as SARS, pandemic influenza, and West Nile virus.

Wu is the recipient of various awards and fellowships, including the 2008 New Pioneer Science & Technology Award, the 2003 Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Research Prize, the Cheung Kong Visiting Professorship (Ministry of Education, China), Paul Erdos Visiting Professorship (Hungarian Academy of Science), and Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (Germany).

Jianhong Wu received his PhD from Hunan University (China) in 1987. He is the author of six books and more than 200 papers.


Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Saturday, August 1, 2009

End Date

Friday, August 1, 2014


60 months

IDRC Officer

David O'Brien

Total funding

CA$ 1,000,000


China, India, Canada


International Research Chairs Initiative

Project Leader

Yiming Shao


Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Institution Country


Institution Website

Project Leader

Jianhong Wu


York University, Canada

Institution Country


Institution Website