Marcel Salathé, a young researcher with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, joined EPFL in July 2015 after spending several years in the USA. In his field of research, digital epidemiology, he has attracted the attention of the international scientific community by developing innovative predictive models on the spread of infectious diseases. His approach is based upon the idea that we can use epidemiological data giants of the digital world, such as Twitter and Google, including the movement of individuals and their interactions. It has a transversal approach from computing to life sciences.
One of his major projects, "PlantVillage", co-founded with David Hughes, is one of the largest libraries in the world in terms of scientific knowledge on diseases of edible plants. It already lists 154 varieties and more than 1,800 diseases, and it continues to grow. "PlantVillage" is also a platform for dialogue and exchange among the best specialists and growers worldwide. Since November 2015, more than 50,000 images of healthy and infected plants were published and made freely accessible to allow experts in machine learning the development of algorithms able to immediately identify crop diseases. A smartphone application also provides open-access, integrated and better diagnostic technologies to enable farmers to get an instant diagnosis of pathologies of their plantations, as well as advice on the treatments to be applied. "PlantVillage" has already enjoyed considerable popularity with over two million visitors and three million page views.