NEUROHACK, a competitive international hackathon, took place on the 11th-14th January 2022. The 4-day event brought together 110 skilled participants from 27 countries across six continents. Competitively selected participants attended virtual hubs in London and L.A to tackle key brain health challenges using data science and machine learning. Participants worked in 16 international multidisciplinary teams to produce innovative solutions, along with a chance to have fun and win prizes.
Engagement was truly diverse. Participants represented 27 countries across six continents, with 41% of these being low and middle income countries (LMICs). Of all participants, 19% were from LMICs, and 80% were early career researchers.
Each team worked on one of three challenges:
Genome-wide association studies of dementia in people of South Asian ancestry
The majority of genome-wide association studies have been in older adults of European ancestry. Data for people of South Asian ancestry is limited, though it is possible that findings from European ancestry populations may not translate well. Using contemporary analytic techniques, such as transethnic approaches, teams investigated genetic variation in South Asian populations.
Machine learning for dementia diagnosis in the United States and India
Diagnosing dementia is a difficult clinical challenge. However, machine learning has the potential to uncover hidden patterns in clinical data and may form the basis for a decision-making aid. Using data from Indian and US populations teams explored the degree to which diagnostic status can be accurately predicted.
Exploring genetic variation in motor neurone disease longevity to inform drug discovery
Recent genome-wide association study findings highlight the genetic component of motor neurone disease. Fifteen risk loci with distinct genetic architectures and neuron-specific biology provide vital clues to inform future drug discovery. This challenge explored potential mechanisms and drug targets linked to these new findings.
After a session introducing each Challenge, teams spent four days collaborating to address a set of scientific problems related to clinical and genomic data. Following creative team names, brainstorming sessions, coding, collaboration, banter, troubleshooting and teamwork, virtual escape rooms (it’s all part of the fun), a lot of Zoom calls, Slack and even more hacking, the teams built tools, analysed data and pitched practical solutions to address their Challenge.
Prizes were awarded for individual outstanding contributions and the most innovative solutions for London and L.A. hubs
Outstanding individual contribution prize: £50 for participants having made a significant contribution as voted by their team members
- Brian Schilder (Bioinformagicians – London)
- Oliver Pain (MND Fighters- London)
- Hawley Helmbrecht (Neurone Genetic Variant Hunters – LA)
- Eric Yu (Code – LA)
Team prizes for most innovative solutions: (team prizes shared between all members of each team)
1st Team Prize: £1000 for each winning team
- London: MND Fighters – (Ekaterina Simonova, Oliver Pain, Anna Hutchinson, Devika Agarwal, Hajer Karoui, Katarina Willoch, Alfredo Iacoangeli, Jedrzej Kubica, Dima Igorevich Gromyko, Dimitra Maoutsa)
- L.A: Neurone Genetic Variant Hunters (Jeon Lee, Harshit Manektalia, Hampton Leonard, Hawley Helmbrecht, Dev Patel, Musfera Khan, Ramanandan Prabhakaran)
2nd Team Prize: £500 for each 2nd place team
- London: Patronus AI – (Danai-Georgia Sakelliadou, Natasha Sharapova, Sruthi Srinivasan, Prathamesh Dinkar, Cameron Shand, Marion Peres, Sophie Martin, Elia Benhamou)
- L.A: Los Angeles Intelligent Demons – (Junayed Naushad, Kleanthis Avramidis, Nibal Arzouni, Arka Sadhu, Jean Li, Kabir Juneha, Yanhao Shen)
3rd Team Prize: £250 for each 3rd place team
- London: Genome Wide Association Lovers – (Isabelle Foote, Mateus Harrington, David Enoma, Anna Fürtjes, Gabriela Paulus)
- L.A: Devilish Flanders – (Yash Mate, Kanish Nimesh Shah, Ming Wang, Jonah David Fisher, Annie Nadkarni, Saurabh Koshatwar)
Following NEUROHACK, teams were able to apply for three pilot grants of £10,000 to support further development of the most promising ideas. With fierce competition, Pilot Grants were awarded to the following 3 teams:
- MND Fighters – (PI: Oliver Pain)
- R2-C2 – (PI: Sanjay Rathee)
- Neurone Genetic Variant Hunters – (PI: Hawley Helmbrecht)
NEUROHACK was organized by the DEMON Network, with an international Organizing Committee: Prof David Llewellyn (University of Exeter and Alan Turing Institute), Dr Lokendra Thakur (Broad Institute), Dr Esther Bron (Erasmus MC – University Medical Center Rotterdam), Dr Janice Ranson (University of Exeter), Dr Laura Winchester (University of Oxford), Dr Ahmad Al Khleifat (King’s College London), Prof Richard Everson (University of Exeter and Alan Turing Institute), Dr Xin You Tai (University of Oxford), Dr Ben Busby (DNAnexus) and Cecilia Golborne (University of Exeter).
NEUROHACK was proudly supported by the Alan Turing Institute, Alzheimer’s Research UK, the MND Association, LifeArc, the University of Exeter, King’s College London, the University of Southern California, and DNAnexus.
Quotes from participants
“It was challenging, but fun! I didn’t expect to get so immersed in just 4 days but found myself working really hard with the team to come up with solutions to problems and obtain results.“NEUROHACK 2022 participant
“It was great to meet like- minded researchers with different strengths, and I have learned a huge amount from them. As someone with quite a technical background, it was good to have members of the team that forced me to pause and reflect on the clinical importance of variables and feed that into our machine learning workflow.”NEUROHACK 2022 participant
“Thank you to the organisers for creating an incredible experience.”NEUROHACK 2022 participant