Dame Sally Davies launches the Trinity Challenge

Dame Sally Davies, the Master of Trinity College, has launched the Trinity Challenge, which brings together leading business, academic and philanthropic institutions, to harness the potential of data and analytics in order to better protect and prepare the world against health emergencies.

A £10 million prize fund will be available to Challenge Teams to support and scale their innovations across economics, behavioural sciences, and epidemiology, which can be translated into improvements in the identification of, response to, and recovery from disease.

Dame Sally, formerly Chief Medical Officer for England, was galvanised to create the global coalition by the experience of COVID-19.

The world knew a global pandemic was coming but we failed to prepare. There will be another COVID-19, the only question is whether we will learn the lessons of this pandemic or be doomed to repeat our mistakes again. The Trinity Challenge is a recognition by business and academia of the need for new, breakthrough ideas and approaches to beat future pandemics.

The strength of the Trinity Challenge lies in bringing together organisations from across the private, public and civil society sectors and enabling multidisciplinary collaborations that can draw on the resources and support of founding members.

Among those members are the University of Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, HKUMed; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Google, Facebook, Microsoft; Aviva, McKinsey & Company, Legal and General, GSK and Reckitt Benckiser.

Dame Sally said:

My career has been inspired by making sure all people, everywhere, have the best possible life chances. Health is integral to that, and we are seeing this now more than ever. We need to come together to make sure this never happens again.

We need new ways of working, new partnerships, new ideas, and believe that together this strong and growing coalition can and will generate acts that protect and improve lives and livelihoods everywhere.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, welcomed The Trinity Challenge: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the world was not prepared. Together, we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure a pandemic of this magnitude, with this level of disruption to lives and livelihoods, never happens again.’

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said:

COVID-19 has highlighted the power of data in helping us understand and tackle health emergencies, but it has also revealed the challenges we face in getting the right data to the right people at the right time.

We need to up our collaborative game so that we cross sectors, disciplines and borders to help us tackle – and even prevent – future health emergencies. The Trinity Challenge is an exciting opportunity to make this happen.

The Cambridge Centre for Data Driven Discovery is leading on the Trinity Challenge on behalf of the University. Co-Chair, Professor Anna Vignoles, said:

Our University is world leading in many aspects of the science needed to tackle this pandemic. We are also world leading in terms of our data science. The Cambridge Centre for Data Driven Discovery convenes data science expertise from right across Cambridge and is highly interdisciplinary in its focus. We have been working closely with The Trinity Challenge team to determine what data we need and how we might use it to address this pandemic.

Trinity Fellows will join Trinity Challenge panels assessing proposals. The Lucasian Professor of Mathematics and a Senior Research Fellow at Trinity, Professor Mike Cates, says that data and its analysis are vital in the fight against public health crises.

The COVID-19 crisis has seen an unprecedented mobilization of the scientific community, whose rapid responses both in modelling epidemic outcomes and in development of treatments and vaccines has been remarkable and saved many lives. Data and its analysis has proved central in both areas. By combining these methods with other scientific approaches, the Trinity Challenge will promote breakthrough research that can help mitigate, or even avert, future pandemics.

The Trinity Challenge aims to catalyse the identification and development of practical solutions that reflect the holistic nature of health emergencies. Challenge Teams around the world are invited to submit ideas, tools and insights relevant to any of the three stages of a health crisis:

  • Identification: Building early-warning systems and ground-breaking technologies to identify pathogens or outbreaks before they cause great harm.
  • Response: Developing insights and capabilities to target interventions with maximal effectiveness and at minimal cost.
  • Recovery: Strengthening the social and economic revival following health emergencies and constructing an equitable path toward an inclusive recovery.

Interested parties can register their interest on The Trinity Challenge website. Formal applications will open in early October. The submission period will close in January 2021.

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