Biosurveillance system from Sandia National Laboratories and University of New Mexico uses a negative selection process to quickly identify disease outbreaks.


  • Adaptive
  • Accurate


  • Disease control
  • Medical treatment

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

The Challenge

The National Syndromic Surveillance Program is a biosurveillance system coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In order to expedite the response to hazardous events and disease outbreaks, the system gathers data from emergency departments across the country and evaluates public health indicators, looking for anomalies. Through statistical analyses, the program is then able to estimate the likelihood of an outbreak. Unfortunately, these algorithms can only take into account one variable at a time, slowing down the collection of information needed to respond in a targeted and effective manner.

Innovation Details

The improved biosurveillance system uses a mapping algorithm with a decentralized approach. The algorithm contains synthetic, mathematical “T-cells” that simultaneously monitor several variables from health systems across the country: number of clinic visits, intake temperatures, days of the year when abnormalities appear, etc. It then processes the collected information using a negative selection process in which it identifies atypical trends. This negative selection process and the synthetic “T-cells” result in more nuanced data collection, and early trials of the biosurveillance system have demonstrated its ability to separate trends from typical seasonal influenzas.

Biomimicry Story

Our immune systems are composed of billions of white blood cells constantly on the lookout for illnesses and foreign invaders, ready to respond if the body is under attack. T-cells, also known as T-lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell and a vital component of the immune system. T-cells learn which cells to attack through a negative selection “training” process, in which T-cells that attack intruders are kept alive and T-cells that attack normal body cells are destroyed. Eventually, the T-cells learn to successfully combat invading cells when an infection enters the body.