CCDD is a research group at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that works on modelling all aspects of infectious disease, from detection and prevalence estimation, to understanding how a disease spreads, to designing vaccine trials.

What problem is CCDD working on?

CCDD dedicates its efforts towards pandemic preparedness and biosecurity. Preparing for future pandemics, especially those that pose a risk to humanity's survival or long-term potential, is one of the best ways to create a better future.

What does CCDD do?

CCDD takes a diverse range of approaches to the problem of enhancing pandemic preparedness and improving biosecurity. Among these are:

  • Improving Policy Decisions: By providing more accurate models and simulations for policymakers, CCDD helps inform decisions during critical situations. For example, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the severity of the situation was not fully recognised by the federal government, CCDD provided municipalities, starting with New York, with simulations of the upcoming scenario.
  • Estimating Disease Spread: CCDD is a leader in "nowcasting," the practice of estimating the current number of cases and other critical data using laggy data. These techniques were used extensively during the COVID-19 pandemic. CCDD staff has also co-created a toolkit on “nowcasting” for public use.
  • Research on Vaccine Trials: CCDD's work includes proposing and researching ways to conduct more effective vaccine trials. Notably, its staff co-authored a paper on COVID-19 vaccine trials involving deliberate infection of healthy volunteers in a controlled setting, which led to the formation of the 1Day Sooner organisation and the approval of such trials in the UK.
  • Training Future Epidemiologists: CCDD is involved in training the next generation of epidemiologists. It has trained several Epidemic Intelligence Service officers, contributing to the development of the field.

CCDD's director, Marc Lipsitch, is a key part of this work. He splits his time between directing CCDD and serving as the Senior Advisor for the CDC's Centre for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics. Lipsitch is also a nuanced contributor to important debates, such as around which dual-use biomedical research (like gain-of-function research) is worthwhile.

What information does Giving What We Can have about the cost-effectiveness of CCDD?1.

The impact-focused evaluator Longview recommended that the Longtermism Fund provide a grant to help support CCDD’s work by partially funding the salary of a Director of Research and Administration. In addition to evaluating the case for this specific grant, Longview has conducted several reviews of CCDD’s work since 2020 and found this work to be a cost-effective way to improve biosecurity, prepare for pandemics, and thereby create a better future.

Please note that GWWC does not evaluate individual charities. Our recommendations are based on the research of third-party, impact-focused charity evaluators our research team has found to be particularly well-suited to help donors do the most good per dollar, according to their recent evaluator investigations. Our other supported programs are those that align with our charitable purpose — they are working on a high-impact problem and take a reasonably promising approach (based on publicly-available information).

At Giving What We Can, we focus on the effectiveness of an organisation's work -- what the organisation is actually doing and whether their programs are making a big difference. Some others in the charity recommendation space focus instead on the ratio of admin costs to program spending, part of what we’ve termed the “overhead myth.” See why overhead isn’t the full story and learn more about our approach to charity evaluation.