Los Angeles, March 10, 2021. A team of scientists headed by Dr. Nuria Oliver, co-chair of the board of the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), has won first prize in the 500k Pandemic Response Challenge. The Global Pandemic Challenge was a joint initiative of XPRIZE, the world’s leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, and Cognizant, a leading technology and professional services company. Oliver and her team will share the total prize money of USD 500,000 equally with the second-place team from Ljubljana, Slovenia. They are the first Spanish team to win an XPRIZE competition.
The competition required teams to build effective data-driven AI systems capable of accurately predicting COVID-19 transmission rates and prescribing intervention and mitigation measures that, with testing in “what-if” scenarios, were shown to minimize infection rates as well as negative economic impacts. The winning models will be made available to policymakers, business leaders, and health officials worldwide as they consider strategies for safely reopening society and restoring the global economy.
The VALENCIA IA4COVID19 project was selected among 48 finalists. “We’re very pleased that our project has been honored with this prize. As a result of our collaboration with the Valencian government, we have already seen the positive impact that such models can have. With it, we hope to contribute to approaches that will help policymakers around the world navigate their way out of the pandemic,” said Oliver, who is also Commissioner of the Presidency of the Generalitat Valenciana. Dr. Oliver headed the research team with Dr. Alberto Conejero, Director of the Applied Mathematics Department at Universitat Politècnica de València.
VALENCIA IA4COVID19 has collaborated with the Valencian government since March 2020 to leverage data science in the fight against COVID-19. Ultimately, the team’s winning model successfully forecasted epidemiological evolution through their use of AI and data science. JSI vs COVID worked to develop accurate predictors of COVID-19 infections using a combination of a SEIR epidemiological model and machine learning. Through the Challenge, both teams hope to achieve more accurate models for predicting the evolution of COVID-19 that can be used in their respective countries and beyond.
“We salute the ingenuity and dedication of the two winning teams of the Pandemic Response Challenge, and thank all who participated in this global competition,” said Brian Humphries, CEO of Cognizant. “It’s amazing what can happen when you bring together creative minds in data science, computer programming, machine learning, and epidemiology. Their data-driven, AI-based models will help policy makers and health officials safely restart economies and learn how to harness these technologies to tackle future public health crises.”
Contestants’ AI models were evaluated by an independent judging panel comprising academics, pandemic response specialists, AI experts, and epidemiologists, among others.