In January 2015, amid the West African Ebola outbreak, Dr. Todd Brown, a then-middle school civics educator in Sarasota, FL, emailed Dr. Pardis Sabeti, a faculty at Harvard University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, to connect and request a Skype session with his classroom students, who were learning about outbreak science governance at the time. Inspired by the conversations, and with his signature energy, Dr. Brown launched an outbreak science curriculum for his students that culminated in a live-action, sticker-based outbreak simulation. Dr. Sabeti and the Sabeti Lab enthusiastically came on as advisors, and, together, began to map out how to advance the curriculum and simulation experience.
With Dr. Andres Colubri, a then-postdoctoral fellow in the Sabeti Lab, the team took aim at better modeling the spread of pathogens, leveraging the power of Bluetooth to spread a fictional pathogen across smartphones. In 2017, the first-ever Bluetooth-based outbreak simulation was run, and Operation Outbreak (OO) was born. Housed at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, OO is now a multi-institution collaborative initiative involving the Sabeti Lab at the Broad Institute (Dr. Sabeti), The Inspire Project (Dr. Brown) and the Colubri Lab of the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School (Dr. Colubri).