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Christopher Barrett, PhD, is a distinguished professor and the executive director of the newly established Biocomplexity Institute & Initiative at the University of Virginia. Dr. Barrett talks about biocomplexity and the premise of his work.

Dr. Barrett is an established interdisciplinary computational scientist. Over his illustrious 35-year career he has published more than100 research articles examining many aspects of various scale interaction systems. Dr. Barrett is celebrated for his outstanding work, and for founding some of the most notable national and international technology programs of their kind. He has worked with the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy as well as the Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. Barrett states their mission: to look at massively interacting systems, systems built of extremely large numbers of interacting heterogenous pieces. From cells within our bodies to the cellular machinery involved, to ecology and life on the planet, and more… the Biocomplexity Initiative will cast a wide net as they study many and various systems. He states they are focused on practical applications in important areas such as epidemiology, bioinformatics as it relates to nucleotide sequences, and to basic public policy and how it affects human health.

The biology and infectious disease expert discusses how population and other social determinants, sanitary practices, etc. impact the spread of disease. He talks about infrastructure modeling, health modeling, and economic variables that are studied to see the bigger picture and make assessments about possibilities.

The Biocomplexity Initiative provides high-performance computing capabilities that will assist researchers as they develop a greater understanding of the complex relationship between human genomics, behavioral aspects of health, as well as the environmental effects, in the myriad ways that diseases may exhibit. Dr. Barrett discusses their disciplined approach that seeks to forecast, explain, and visually present the behavioral interactions of substantial, highly complex systems. Dr. Barrett’s long-term mission is to enable research and help researchers to get a better grasp of how diseases spread based on various factors such as cultural behavior, specifics of a pathogen, human transportation of disease, and other important issues. And the ultimate goal of the work is to be prepared for the worst-case scenario—global pandemic.

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