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Clara Prats: the scientist behind a major breakthrough in monitoring Covid-19

Clara Prats: the scientist behind a major breakthrough in monitoring Covid-19

Clara Prats, researcher and director of the Computational Biology and Complex Systems group (BIOCOM-SC) at the UPC

Resurgence risk is much more than just one more concept we have had to include in our current vocabulary, like the terms 'pandemic', 'lockdown', 'asymptomatic' and 'second wave'.

In fact, it is actually an essential tool based on quantitative data that explains the day-to-day progress of the epidemic to the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Catalan government's department of health.

The resurgence risk index emerged after six months of work by the researcher Clara Prats and her research group on Computational Biology and Complex Systems (BIOCOM-SC) at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC). Since March, they have been monitoring all the European countries several times a week and searching for ways to monitor the epidemic at a European level. Their work employs the resurgence risk index, which collects two types of information: the current level of incidence— the number of people who are contagious—and variations to this level—whether it is falling, holding steady, or rising. This is vital, since the data shows how many infections are generated by each case and thus makes it possible to predict short-term trends and evaluate the quality of the control measures carried out in each country.

This study has also been carried out at a local level and has been essential for controlling the epidemic in Catalonia throughout the summer. Clara Prats has now been added to the group of advisors who are called to provide information on what is happening and how to control the spread of the virus.

Doctor of physics and music lover

For those who don't know her, Clara has a doctorate in applied physics and science simulation and has worked for the last ten years on tuberculosis research with Dr. Pere-Joan Cardona of the Germans Trias i Pujol research institute. In fact, in June this year they presented a computer model whose aim is to reproduce the dynamics of tuberculosis lesions in a virtual lung. A lover of music—she has conducted children's choirs—and of science, she has learnt how to combine the skills of both worlds in order to explain the data extracted every day from the study to other scientists, health professionals, politicians and the media. Both the subsequent studies and her opinion on various measures that have been taken are crucial and have guided political decision-making in Catalonia.

According to Dr. Trill, Clara Prats has been a real discovery. She has put her TB research aside for the time being and is now focusing on the day-to-day study of the coronavirus, while also taking a more public role in order to help fight against it. She is a scientist who seeks to understand the world and do her bit to improve things. Thanks to her dedication and patience, she is helping not only to control the pandemic, but to help everyone to gain a deeper understanding of Covid-19.

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