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ARA wins $9 million contract to develop the Canepi Biosurveillance Ecosystem

December 2012

Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA) has won a 3-year, $9.3 million contract from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) entitled, “Canepi: A Biosurveillance Ecosystem in the Cloud” which will provide the next generation of biosurveillance capabilities for military and civilian use. ARA put together a multidisciplinary team that includes Boston Children’s Hospital (HealthMap), EcoHealth Alliance, ProMED-Mail, Kitware, Inc., Veracient, LLC, and Sandia National Laboratories. The team members bring well-established technologies, such as HealthMap and ProMED-Mail and expertise in machine learning and computational analytics to this project.  The goal is to produce a system for analysis, integration and dissemination of data related to emerging disease threat - including data from social media and DTRA-developed hand-held diagnostic devices - to radically change the way biosurveillance is done and ultimately provide information dominance during periods of emerging disease threat. Ms. Karen Cheng, Director of Data Mining and Computational Analytics for ARA and PI/PM for the project, understands implementing complex health information technology systems and mentions “the challenge to manage on-going operations will improve confidence and encourage trust in the cloud computing environment."

DTRA’s vision of a Biosurveillance (BSV) Ecosystem includes the integrating of new and existing biosurveillance technologies, services, and data into a cloud-based system. The BSV Ecosystem will emphasize collaboration and interaction among users, developers, front-line epidemiological observers, clinical specialists, algorithms, visualization technologies, and data.  ARA proposed a state-of-the-art biosurveillance system that will appeal to a wide variety of users including the military, public health community and national and local crisis planners and responders. The name ‘Canepi’ was chosen for this project to evoke the forest canopy ecosystem with its overarching nature and interaction among its communities; ‘epi’ because the goal is epidemiological biosurveillance. The image of the forest canopy is a reminder that the goal is not only human biosurveillance, but surveillance defined more broadly across humans, domesticated animals, wildlife, and plants.  It is increasingly evident that zoonoses represent a new frontier in epidemiological biosurveillance, and a key factor in the contract win was ARA’s decision to make broad-spectrum biosurveillance central to its effort. 

Canepi will dramatically increase the “detect-identify-respond” capabilities for epidemic outbreaks and emerging infectious diseases. In addition, the project will enable threat estimates in locations where U.S. forces are likely to deploy.  ARA has assembled a highly experienced team with a unique set of qualifications for developing the Canepi System, and is looking forward to implementing DTRA’s BSV Ecosystem concept. 

Canepi: A Biosurveillance Ecosystem in the Cloud