The software that allows financial institutions to track transactions and retailers to optimize inventory levels could help researchers at National Yang-Ming University predict outbreaks of diseases such as the flu and produce vaccines tailored to dominant strains, researchers at a conference said yesterday.
Using epidemiological data collected by the Center of Disease Control (CDC), the analytic tool by the university team will be able to shave months off the process of predicting which strains of influenza to expect during the next flu season, said Yang Ueng-cheng (楊永正), the director of the university's center for systems and synthetic biology.
Yang said that the strains of influenza most prevalent in Taiwan during any given flu season are usually considerably different from those in other countries, which "makes it desirable to produce our own vaccines rather than use the same ones as everyone else."
"However, in order to mass-produce the vaccines in time for the coming season, we need to know the strain that will be most prevalent by March," which is not enough time, he said.
The team is working with Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) software donated by IBM.
SOA programs are used in a variety of business settings where it is necessary to cross-check information from separate databases.
Joe Lu (呂政欣), advisory specialist with IBM Taiwan, gave an example: "Withdrawing money from an ATM is one transaction for the user. But behind the scenes, a series of procedures needs to take place -- from checking the validity of the card to making sure that there are adequate funds in the account."
"It would take us years to write the software ourselves," said Li Guo-bing (
Li said that by this March, the project could be far enough along to analyze the information from this flu season, which is just now peaking.
That means the team could produce predictions theoretically in time to mass produce vaccines for next winter's flu season.
But its too soon to talk about producing influenza vaccines tailored for Taiwan, CDC deputy chairman Shih Wen-yi (
"We don't make our own vaccines yet and there is currently no choice of vaccine types on the market," he said.