Professor Neil M Ferguson
Professor of Mathematical Biology
School of Public Health
St Mary's Campus
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 3296
Professor Neil M Ferguson OBE FMedSci
Mathematical Biology of Infectious Diseases
My research aims to improve understanding of the epidemiological factors and population processes shaping infectious disease spread in human and animal populations. A key practical focus is the analysis and optimisation of intervention strategies aimed at limiting disease spread – whether within a host population or within an infected individual. This work has the applied goal of aiding disease control policy making in the public health, clinical and veterinary contexts. Also, from an ecological perspective, the effect of interventions is often to perturb the dynamics of pathogen spread and the nature of the dynamical response to such perturbation often gives valuable information on fundamental population dynamic and genetic processes.
With recent advances in data availability (both epidemiological and molecular) and affordable high-performance computing, mathematical models of infectious disease spread now offer the potential to provide predictive, quantitative analyses of alternative disease control and treatment strategies, as well as qualitative insight into the complex non-linear processes shaping pathogen replication and evolution. An important strand of my research program is therefore to develop the statistical and mathematical tools necessary for such increasingly sophisticated models to be rigorously tested and validated against epidemiological, molecular and experimental data.
My past research has included work on childhood infections, antigenically variable pathogens, together with long term commitments to research projects on BSE and vCJD, HIV, foot and mouth disease and influenza. In 2001 I had a significant role in analysing data from the foot and mouth epidemic and advising on control policy options. More recently, I have focused on developing mathematical models of the geographic spread of newly emergent pathogens to examine containment and mitigation strategies for pandemic influenza and bioterrorist agents.
Much of this work has been undertaken in collaboration with colleagues in DIDE and external institutions. The breadth of my research interests reflects my belief that comparative analyses of different host-pathogen systems can provide powerful insights into the population processes common to many infectious diseases, while highlighting how key differences in disease biology, route of transmission or host population structure determine observed differences in patterns of infection.
I hold research grants totalling £5 million in the areas of (a) development of statistical techniques for analysing heterogeneous infectious disease data, (b) modelling viral evolution under immune and treatment induced selection, (c) BSE/vCJD risk assessment, (d) Epidemiology of Foot and Mouth disease and Avian Influenza in livestock, and (f) Mathematical modelling of emerging and deliberately released pathogens.