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Section: Scientific Foundations

Optimal control problems in biomathematics

Controls in population dynamics can take various forms and generally speaking are governed by the anthropization of the environment, i.e., by the action of human populations on their environment. Prophylaxis, sterilization, vaccination, screening, quarantine, culling, re-introduction, capture, hunting, fishing, pesticides are examples of widely used control processes. It is then important to assess the impact of such actions on the considered population and to distinguish between what is actually feasible and what is not in terms of optimal management of resources.

A rather rich literature is available on this topic ranging from resource management in ecology to applications of Pontryaguin's maximum principle to mathematical biology problems.

In the framework of this research team-project, we investigate control problems for structured models (size, weight, age, health status, spatial location of individuals, age of the disease) from a biomathematical point of view. We will use both individual based models (IBM) and models using densities. Techniques to be used are mainly those from automatic control and the factorization methods described in section 3.3.2 .

Disease control

Some problems of prevention against disease propagation can be modelled as optimal control problem with control acting on subdomains and/or on certain cohorts. Then several optimization programs can take place depending on the severity of the disease and the cost of the control. The problem consists in minimizing or maximizing an objective function with constraints on the control and on the state.

For some of these problems concerning animal populations the objective consists in finding the smallest domain that can prevent the propagation of the disease : the reduced level of healthy individuals or the absence of any infected prevents the propagation. This is a control problem coupled to a shape optimization problem.

In particular, a somewhat “inverse problem” is one consisting in controlling an invading alien species by using a pathogen (see below and the end of subsection 3.1.2 ). Field experiments have been conducted, and simple mathematical models derived, cf. [43] , [48] .

Controlling the size of a population

This is a classical problem in demography. Various kinds of control can be used : control by migration, elimination (animal populations) or designing birth policies. Numerical and mathematical difficulties come from the existence of non local terms in the equation due to the mortality and renewal processes of the population.

Classical results of automatic control theory cannot be directly applied. Our last results on the topic show that one can control (after a time equivalent to one generation) a population (except the smallest age classes) by acting only on age classes of small size and localized on small domains. These studies could be extended to systems (populations structured by sex, prey-predator systems) and to other fields than demography but with similar difficulties (cell growth, epidemiology with sanitary structuration).

A study with S. Anita on the control of a predator population upon acting either on preys or on predators has been initiated. This is to be further developed toward a predator-prey system with species living on distinct spatial domains. In this new setting the question of where to act and on which species is more realistic.

Public prevention of epidemics in an optimal economic growth model

In this field (done within the proposal for :” projet thématique prioritaire du CNRS Méthodes et décision pour le développement durable”), we address the question of whether or not economics can affect or be affected by the spread of a disease within a population. Ill individuals often stop working and affect the production function, diminishing the capital accumulation per capita. The public health policies are not only an immediate cost but also affect the future wealth of the economy. The social costs of the disease are not devoted to investment, but the reduction of the epidemics increases the labor population and the capital per capita. In a first approach with E. Augeraud (University of La Rochelle) and H. D'Albis (University Toulouse 1), we introduce a dynamical economic model of Ramsey type, where the labor population is affected by an infectious disease like HIV or TB (Tuberculosis). To control the spread of this disease, the government has the possibility to set up a screening procedure. We will study the optimal balance between the economical problem consisting in the maximization of the discounted sum of instantaneous utility and the classical social problem consisting in minimizing the number of infected individuals. Using the Pontryagin's maximum principle we will see how the level of economic development, the price of the screening campaign and the price of medications affects the dynamic of public intervention.

Age structured population dynamics as a problem of control

For some evolution problems, one can consider that a part of the dynamics comes from a state feedback. This is naturally the case for age structured populations for whose dynamics the birth rate depends on the breakdown of the present population by age. Then one can consider the birth rate as a control. There remains to determine the criterion and therefore the observation of the system in order that the optimal feedback corresponds exactly to the natural fertility rate. This problem leads to a functional equation which has to be studied and solved numerically. This could allow to transform population evolution problems to an open loop control problem and may be a clue to numerical problems linked to birth rates. Possibly for control problems in population dynamics (fishing, epidemiology,....) such an approach could provide a smooth transition between the phase under optimization and a desired asymptotic behaviour [14] .


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