Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For using data science and AI to predict infectious disease outbreaks in real time

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Rainier Mallol and his family were surrounded by dengue fever, an infectious disease made worse by its inherent unpredictability. “The issue with dengue is that we don’t really know where and when it’s going to happen, so we make unfounded decisions,” he says. 

An IT consultant during his college years, Mallol was accepted to a NASA graduate studies program aimed at people looking to help the world through innovation. During the very first class at the U.S. space agency, he met a doctor, and the two teamed up to create an artificial intelligence (AI) prototype that would combine data analytics with epidemiology to predict infectious disease outbreaks.

After their concept was named best project, the duo were invited to Brazil to implement a pilot, which predicted the next dengue outbreaks with 80 percent accuracy. That early project matured into a company called AIME, for Artificial Intelligence in Medical Epidemiology. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Brazilian government invited Mallol and his growing team to help track and control the Zika virus.

The not-yet-30-year-old is now working with the Dominican government, providing data-driven insights to help steer the country’s management of the COVID-19 crisis. It’s just the latest way he’s looking to achieve his goal “to help people by having a seat at the table and being able to tackle problems differently.”

Q&A: Rainier Mallol on crisis management and selling ideas

How did the pandemic change the way you manage projects? 

I found out that in crises, people are much more willing to follow plans and systematic order. It allowed my company to provide value to presidents and Cabinet members, as we were not only providing a service, but also guiding the way through what needed to be done.

What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy? 

The ability to sell an idea. People tend to trust people rather than projects, and even the best idea needs people who can reach those who can turn it into reality.

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