Optimized strategies to control epidemics in highly heterogeneous populations –
A decision-analytical approach to agent-based modeling


Project content and objectives

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for society and political decision-making. The aim of OptimAgent is to develop a standardized model-based framework to support decision-making processes in the field of public health. This framework enables the evaluation of a wide range of infection control measures. The focus is on the conception of an agent-based model that goes far beyond the simulation approaches available to date.
Through a flexible modular structure and a comprehensive consultation process with national and international modeling experts, the model will be optimized in particular to provide informative support for health policy decision-making processes during future pandemics.

In addition, it will be adaptable for endemic pathogens and realistically reflect the socio-demographic and regional structures of Germany. The agents on which the model is based combine demographic, socio-economic, sociological and psychological characteristics that influence individual contact behavior and the risk of infection and disease.
Based on the results of comprehensive and differentiated analyses of contact behavior, specific model modules on selective, targeted contact restrictions in different settings, contact tracing and testing strategies will be developed. The flexible modular model structure also offers the option of easily integrating additional components.

The focus of the project is to analyze the effects of different aspects of the heterogeneity of the population structure and their interaction on the incidence of infection. The aim is to gain new insights into the significance of heterogeneity in the spread of severe respiratory infectious diseases in the population and the effectiveness of pandemic control measures.

Project structure

The OptimAgent project is divided into the phases “Conceptualization”, “Development & Analysis” and “Application” and comprises six interlinked sub-projects.

Subproject 1 – Heterogeneity in contact behavior and in the use of prevention measures in different phases of an epidemic

Examines heterogeneity in contact behavior and compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions and their impact on transmission patterns in the population

Subproject 2 – Heterogeneity of the socio-psychological determinants of health behavior

Focuses on psychosocial aspects that influence health behavior and creates a module to generate artificial populations

Subproject 3 – Estimation of spatial and temporal heterogeneity – Methods for parameterization and model training

Develops a principled approach to derive time- and location-resolved epidemiological parameters from different data sources

Subproject 4 – Generation of representative scenario populations for epidemiological models

Creates a tool to generate representative scenario populations for epidemiological models

Subproject 5 – Development of the German Epidemic Micro-Simulation System

Will develop an agent-based reference model for Germany that integrates work from subprojects 1-4 and 6 and enables the simulation of complex scenarios.

Subproject 6 – Effects of synergistic interactions between exposure and susceptibility to infectious diseases on socioeconomic inequalities in disease burden and the effects of infection control measures

Creates a decision analytic module that assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of alternative non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Project manager

Subproject 1

  • Dr. André Karch, WWU (sub-project leader)
  • Veronika Jäger, WWU
  • Dr. Rafael Mikolajczyk, MLU
  • Dr. Vitaly Belik, FUB

Subproject 2

  • Dr. André Calero Valdez, UzL (sub-project leader)

Subproject 3

  • Dr. Markus Scholz, UnL (sub-project manager)

Subproject 4

  • Dr. Jan Pablo Burgard, UnT (sub-project manager)
  • Dr. Ralf Münnich, UnT

Subproject 5

  • Wolfgang Bock, TUK, (sub-project manager)
  • Dr. Bernd Hellingrath, ERCIS
  • Johannes Horn, MLU
  • Dr. Mirjam E. Kretzschmar, UMC
  • Dr. Tyll Krüger, WUST

Subproject 6

  • Jun.-Prof. Dr. Alexander Kuhlmann, MLU (sub-project leader)
  • Berit Lange, HZI
  • Dr. Wolfgang Greiner, UnB
  • Dr. Beate Jahn, UMIT
  • Dr. Uwe Siebert, UMIT

Project partners

Prof. Dr. Rafael Mikolajczyk

Dr. Johannes Horn

Dr. Daniel Rodenburger

Moritz Kersting

Carla Hartmann

Institute of Epidemiology, Biometry and Informatics at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Junior Professor Dr. Alexander Kuhlmann

Junior Research Group Health Economics and Health Services Research at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Prof. Dr. André Karch

Dr. Veronika Jäger

Phuong Huynh

Institute for Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Prof. Dr. Bernd Hellingrath

John Ponge

Institute for Information Systems at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Prof. Dr. Vitaly Belik

Andrzej Krzysztof Jarynowski

Institute of Veterinary Epidemiology and Biometry at the Free University of Berlin

Prof. Dr. Markus Scholz

Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Leipzig

Prof. Dr. André Calero Valdez

Lilian Kojan

Institute for Multimedia and Interactive Systems at the University of Lübeck

Prof. Dr. Jan Pablo Burgard

Prof. Dr. Ralf Münnich

Soheil Shams

Chair of Economic and Social Statistics at the University of Trier

Dr. Wolfgang Bock

Lukas Bayer

Department of Technomathematics at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern

Dr. Berit Lange

Dr. Isti Rodiah

Department of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research GmbH

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Greiner

Maren Steinmann

Sebastian Gruhn

Faculty of Health Sciences at Bielefeld University

Prof. Dr. Tyll Krüger

Wroclaw University of Technology

Prof. Dr. Mirjam E. Kretzschmar

Utrecht University

Prof. Dr. Beate Jahn

Prof. Dr. Uwe Siebert

UMIT – Private University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology GmbH (UMIT TIROL)

Richard Pastor

Steven Schulz


Scientific Advisory Board

Vittoria Colizza

Head of research at the Pierre-Louis-Institute for Epidemiology

Luca Ferretti

Senior Researcher at the Big Data Institute, University of Oxford

Simon Cauchemez

Head of the Department of Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases at the Institut Pasteur

Stefan Flasche

Co-Director of the Center for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID)
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Franciszek Rakowski

Head of the Polish modeling team
ICM University of Warsaw

Nicolas Popper

Chairman of DEXHELPP (Decision Support for Health Policy and Planning)
Coordinator of the COCOS (Center for Computational Complex Systems)
Vienna University of Technology