by Anita Makri
The Lancet Vol. 390, No. 10097, p833, 26 August 2017
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is setting its sights on a digital future, in which epidemiological intelligence does not rely solely on conventional monitoring through surveys and field data, but links up with machine learning and artificial intelligence. “The goal is to identify illness in real time when it comes to infectious disease outbreaks, but also to track behavioural changes in the community”, says Lothar Wieler, President of the RKI, Germany’s central scientific institution in the field of biomedicine. “We need to identify signals as soon as possible.” This drive towards digital epidemiology is central to the RKI’s new strategy. It is also one of the ways that the institute strives to both honour and push the boundaries of the legacy left behind by its founder, microbiologist Robert Koch, known for pioneering methods to grow bacteria and for the discovery of what causes anthrax, tuberculosis, and cholera.