Expanding Knowledge to Save Lives

A gift from Morris-Singer Foundation amplifies informed leadership in the fight against COVID-19

Chan School of Public Health

Expanding Knowledge to Save Lives

On March 2, 2020, Marc Lipsitch joined a panel of distinguished public health experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for a livestreamed discussion of the still poorly understood COVID-19 outbreak. The disease was spreading rapidly around the world but just beginning to take a deadly toll in the United States. Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD) at the Harvard Chan School, began by emphasizing the urgent need to learn more about the virus: “There are a few things we know and many more that we don’t know.”

In the months since, Lipsitch and his colleagues at CCDD have played a leading role in shrinking that knowledge gap, conducting crucial work to predict the spread of the disease worldwide and becoming a trusted source of information for the public, journalists, and policymakers. Similarly, Ariadne Labs—a joint center for health systems innovation at the Harvard Chan School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard teaching hospital—has become a leading voice in addressing COVID-19, creating and promulgating tools and guidance that are being used to assist communities, frontline providers, and health system administrators around the world.

Both centers were able to accelerate and scale their research and response efforts thanks to a combined $1.4 million gift from the Andrew and Corey Morris-Singer Foundation in spring 2020.

“COVID-19 represents an extraordinary challenge to our society and our systems of care,” says Andrew Morris-Singer MD ’07, who heads the foundation with his husband, Corey Morris-Singer PhD ’12. “We believe that both the CCDD and Ariadne Labs are going to make critical contributions to addressing this crisis.”

The Morris-Singers are both deeply committed to improving health care policy and practice. A clinician and educator with faculty appointments at Oregon Health & Science University and Harvard Medical School, Andrew is a national thought leader on primary care reform and leadership development in health care. Corey, a Harvard-trained cell biologist and founder of the Harvard Science Policy Group, has advocated on Capitol Hill for bipartisan support of science education and biomedical research funding. In 2010, they cofounded the nonprofit Primary Care Progress, which Andrew chairs, to develop leadership and community-building skills among current and future practitioners across the country.

Supporting Critical Research

Responding to the escalating pandemic, they have sought to support and amplify the work of clinicians and researchers through their philanthropy. “We’re trying to get more resources to where they can have an immediate impact in the face of this crisis, but also to where they will be building the capacity for healthier and more resilient communities,” says Corey.

In giving to Harvard, the Morris-Singers invested in two centers that have helped shape the world’s response to large-scale epidemics, including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola.

“Andrew and Corey are leaders in philanthropic strategy, responding to the COVID-19 crisis with urgency and with a grounding in science,” says Michelle A. Williams SM ’88, ScD ’91, dean of the Harvard Chan School and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development. “Their gifts to CCDD and to Ariadne Labs give our research the much-needed latitude to respond to this crisis on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour level.”

CCDD has been advising governments around the world and across the U.S., improving testing procedures and availability in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and finding innovative ways to uncover and interpret hidden information about the pandemic—from predicting disease prevalence using infection rates among travelers to reporting on the effectiveness of social distancing using data from social media.

“This gift transforms our ability to do the most important science and make the most important contributions we can to evidence-based policy and decision-making,” explains Lipsitch.

Led by executive director Asaf Bitton MPH ’10, Ariadne Labs was an early leader in promoting social distancing, joining health care professionals across the country in launching the Stay Home, Save Lives campaign. The Morris-Singers’ gift has allowed Ariadne Labs to expand its work to outline actionable recommendations for responding to the crisis across multiple domains, including community mitigation strategies and guidelines for hospital systems in areas such as obstetrics, surgery, virtual ambulatory care, and elder care.

“We are incredibly grateful to Andrew and Corey for investing in this critical work during a time of unprecedented challenges,” says Bitton. “Their generosity has enabled Ariadne Labs to quickly respond to COVID-19 in the way that we do best—developing simple, scalable solutions to improve the delivery and equity of health care. In the past few months, we have been able to have an immediate impact on patients, health care workers, governments, social service organizations, and the general public by developing system-level best practices, effective tools, and pragmatic guidelines to address COVID-19.”

“Andrew and Corey are leaders in philanthropic strategy, responding to the COVID-19 crisis with urgency and with a grounding in science.”


Trusted Sources

Through research, media outreach, publications, and events, a core group of faculty at CCDD and Ariadne Labs has been at the forefront of the response to COVID-19, working tirelessly to expand understanding among the public and in the scientific community about what it will take to combat this pandemic. Here are just a few examples:

Asaf Bitton
Caroline Buckee
Joanna Paladino
Michael Mina
Rebecca Weintraub
June-Ho Kim
  • Since the early stages of the outbreak, CCDD director Marc Lipsitch has dedicated his time not only to research on COVID-19 epidemiology, control measures, vaccine evaluation, and policy response, but also to communications—becoming an ambassador for the scientific community as well as a go-to source for journalists and the public. In addition to speaking to the media regularly and penning numerous articles, the renowned epidemiologist has been a prolific communicator on social media, sharing timely articles and expert commentary on various aspects of the pandemic with his growing Twitter following, which has swelled from around 4,000 to more than 200,000 in a matter of months.

  • A primary care physician, public health researcher, and health systems innovation leader, Ariadne Labs executive director Asaf Bitton MPH ’10 has written and spoken frequently about community mitigation strategies. His March 2020 blog post “Social Distancing: This Is Not a Snow Day” has been viewed more than 7.6 million times, helping to spark a national discussion on ways of physical and social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus. In August, Bitton announced the launch of the Parabola Project, a joint initiative with The Learning Accelerator to develop resources to help school systems reopen safely with the goal of minimizing health risks while maximizing learning for all students.

  • CCDD associate director Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School, uses mathematical models and data to understand how infectious diseases spread and may be controlled. She co-leads the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network, a global collaboration of about 60 academic research labs—working with national, state, and local governments in eight countries—to utilize mobility data from mobile devices and social media to inform pandemic policy.

  • A palliative care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School (HMS), Joanna Paladino is director of implementation in Ariadne Labs’ Serious Illness Care Program. Her team created a COVID-19 Response Toolkit to facilitate conversations between clinicians and COVID-19 patients and their families, including inpatient and outpatient care resources that are available in seven languages. Tools have been downloaded more than 8,000 times since being developed and were added to the CDC website in spring 2020.

  • Harvard Chan School assistant professor of epidemiology and CCDD faculty member Michael Mina focuses on understanding the patterns and consequences underlying infectious diseases. In June, he co-authored an article proposing a Global Immunological Observatory—a pilot project to track outbreaks of diseases such as COVID-19 by testing for antibodies in thousands of anonymized blood samples per day. He has focused recently on scientific and advocacy work to promote the use of more rapid testing to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Michael Mina left Harvard in November 2021.)

  • An internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor at HMS, Rebecca Weintraub leads Ariadne Labs’ Better Evidence program, which supports health care providers around the world by sharing critical digital tools, including access to the latest COVID-19 information. She has led efforts to inform policymakers, providers, and the public about COVID-19 vaccine delivery and was featured in an episode of the Netflix series Coronavirus, Explained, speaking about equitable global vaccine distribution and serving as an advisor on the script.

  • CCDD faculty member Mauricio Santillana, assistant professor at HMS and the Harvard Chan School, is a physicist and applied mathematician with expertise in mathematical modeling and scientific computing. Working with an international team of scientists, he developed a model that uses real-time social media and search data to predict COVID-19 outbreaks about two weeks before they occur.

  • A primary care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at HMS, June-Ho Kim AB ’09, MPH ’20 is a faculty lead on Ariadne Labs’ Primary Health Care team and has been directing the organization’s Global Learnings work—a research initiative focused on analyzing global infection prevention and control responses to better protect frontline workers and the greater community. He and his team have developed comprehensive reports focusing on South Korea, Japan, and Italy. These resources will be used by practitioners and policymakers from over a dozen countries to inform and improve their COVID-19 infection prevention and control strategies through the Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage.

By the Numbers

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CCDD and Ariadne Labs faculty have received more than 40,000 media mentions related to COVID-19.*

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CCDD and Ariadne Labs faculty have written more than 100 op-eds related to COVID-19.*

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CCDD faculty have been featured in more than 300 podcasts and videos related to COVID-19.*

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CCDD faculty have published more than 60 COVID-19 research papers and scientific articles.*

*All data from January 1–November 30, 2020