UBC Sauder PhD alum’s national COVID-19 analytics tool wins 2022 INFORMS Franz Edelman Award

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Posted 2022-04-13

UBC Sauder PhD alum Professor Leonardo J. Basso and his team at Instituto Sistemas Complejos de Ingeniería (ISCI) in Chile have won the 2022 INFORMS Franz Edelman Award, the world’s leading operations research and analytics award. ISCI, in partnership with the Chilean Ministries of Health and Sciences and telecom company Entel, has developed innovative methodologies and tools, including a nationwide serology surveillance program, that have helped Chile shape its strategy against COVID-19.

The Chilean Ministries of Health and Sciences partnered with the Instituto Sistemas Complejos de Ingeniería (ISCI) and telecom company Entel to develop innovative methodologies and tools that placed operations research and analytics at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic. These innovations have been used in key decisions aspects that helped shape the strategy against the virus, including tools that shed light on the actual effects of lockdowns in different municipalities and over time; helped allocate limited intensive care capacity; allowed multiplying the testing capacity; provided on-the-ground strategies for active search of asymptomatic cases based on anonymized mobility data; and implemented a nationwide serology surveillance program that greatly influenced Chile’s decision regarding booster doses and provided information to the world.

This last initiative was pivotal. During the COVID-19 crisis, Chile’s vaccination rollout followed a multi-platform approach, favoring vaccine availability over choice of a specific technology. While this strategy put Chile among the leaders in inoculations worldwide, it created the need to monitor vaccine effectiveness, as such information was not available elsewhere. The data ISCI gathered through a surveillance program that used mobility data to quickly generate thousands of observations, allowed Chile to realize that, while Sinovac was very effective in curbing the deadly advance of the Gamma variant, it needed to be boosted after five or six months. This information was crucial for the quick deployemet of third doses.

According to ISCI director, Leonardo Basso, “this is an impressive and fruitful alliance between the public sector, the private sector and academia, where every actor was able to communicate and collaborate with others, something that transformed equations and algorithms into data gathering on the ground, and then life saving actions. In fact, conservative estimates show that the project, over two years, saves no less than 2,800 lives. We are happy, proud and hopeful that this opens new avenues to tackle further societal problems through such collaborations.”

"This is a great achievement,” said Vancouver International Airport Authority Professor in Air Transportation and UBC Sauder Professor Anming Zhang. “Leo's research has benefited our fight against the pandemic, which poses a global risk to our health and global economies. The achievement is also not surprising: Leo is one of the best transportation researchers of his generation – his research usefully and elegantly combines theoretical methods and empirical/data analysis, and demonstrates a strong interest in managerial/policy decision-making.”

The 2022 Edelman Award was presented at the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research in Houston, Texas, which took place April 3-5, 2022. The other nominees were e-commerce platform Alibaba, General Motors, Janssen Pharmaceutical, Merck Animal Health, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The award announcement at the event can be viewed via the INFORMS YouTube channel here, and the full video that the Chile Team used to compete, and where both the analytics and the implementation challenges are shown, can be seen at ISCI’s YouTube channel.


About the Franz Edelman Award

First awarded in 1972, the prize is named in honor of Franz Edelman, who founded the Operations Research division within RCA, one of the first corporations to embed operations research as a business imperative. Previous winners of the Franz Edelman Award include U.N. World Food Programme (2021 winner), Intel (2020 winner) and Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) (2019 winner), as well as Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Holiday Retirement, UPS, IBM, Syngenta, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Hewlett-Packard and General Motors, among others.



INFORMS advances and promotes the science and technology of decision-making to save lives, save money and solve problems. As the largest association for the decision and data sciences, INFORMS members support organizations and governments at all levels as they work to transform data into information, and information into insights that lead to more efficient, effective, equitable and impactful results. INFORMS’ 10,000+ members are comprised of a diverse and robust international community of practitioners, researchers, educators and students from a variety of fields.