Title: Assistant Professor of Biostatistics
College/Institute: College of Medicine, College of Public Health and Health Professions
Research interests: Ebola, Zika, vaccine trials, biostatistics
Curriculum vitae: PDF
Hobbies: Cooking, Zumba, Travel
Dr. Natalie Dean is a biostatistician specializing in the statistical analysis of infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola, Zika and HIV. Her affiliation with the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute began in 2014, while working as a postdoctoral appointee in Prof. Ira Longini’s research group. She is now an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida.
Prior to her work with Longini, Dean was an external statistical consultant for the World Health Organization’s HIV department. During this time she designed surveys aimed at estimating the prevalence of drug resistance mutations to HIV medications. This work expanded upon her dissertation research on HIV surveillance, including using viral genetic data to try to establish how recently an individual was
During the height of the West African Ebola outbreak in the fall of 2014, she began working with Longini on the design and analysis of a Phase III Ebola vaccine trial in Guinea. The trial was unusual in that it employed a ring vaccination approach similar to that used to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. The trial enrolled and vaccinated clusters of populations at greatest risk of exposure to Ebola due to their contact with infected people. In place of a placebo, trial designers randomized the vaccine recipients, organizing them into immediate-vaccination and delayed-vaccination clusters Dean helped develop the statistical analysis plan for the trial and has since prepared general guidelines on how to design and analyze delayed vaccination trials. Dean also oversaw a systematic review and meta-analysis of Ebola’s household secondary attack rate and rate of asymptomatic Ebola infections. She has further collaborated with infectious disease modelers at Northeastern to analyze Ebola transmission in Guinea and study ring vaccination strategies in Sierra Leone.
In response to concerns that prenatal Zika infections could cause microcephaly, Dean played an integral part in the Longini group’s efforts to create projections regarding the spread of the infection throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. She helped design, map, and analyze data on Zika infections in order to understand past and potential future spread of the Zika virus.
Dean’s research interests include studying methods and designs for vaccine trials that aim to address infectious disease threats. Dean and Longini are closely involved in the World Health Organization’s research and development Blueprint for action to prevent epidemics. This work includes planning how to evaluate vaccines for several prioritized diseases likely to cause public health emergencies, including Ebola, Zika, Lassa fever, Nipah, and MERS. This work involves the development of innovative study methods that are sufficiently feasible and flexible to be used in epidemics, but that are rigorous enough to support licensure decisions.
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