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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

South Florida: Genomics Program Hosts First Ever Iron Hack

More than 50 students, researchers, professors, and clinicians came together as part of the first-ever National Institutes of Health (NIH)/University of South Florida (USF) Biohackathon and Symposium — also called Iron Hack — sponsored by the USF genomics program.

The event’s aim was to learn about rare blood diseases and build tools to improve the lives of people living with these conditions.

It was the first NIH/USF Hackathon, according to Dr. Rays Jiang, COPH assistant professor of global health.

According to Dr. Jiang, rare diseases impose a heavy burden on patients and families.

“It takes up to 10 years, if ever, to get a diagnosis for many rare diseases,” she said. “Patients typically drain all financial and emotional resources during the process. In public health, rare diseases are often considered to be one of the ‘unsolvable’ problems, due to limited resources for each disease severely hampers research, diagnoses and treatments.”

Iron Hack represented a way to fight back through community-based problem solving, Dr. Jiang explained.

“It is a novel form of collaboration and active learning by bringing people of different expertise together to solve problems. It is achieved through two and a half days of intense team computer programming organized in five teams,” Dr. Jiang said.

Using a cloud-based platform, participants competed for prizes and built novel tools to help expand the resources used to assist with diagnosing and treating rare diseases.

Iron Hack was funded by the USF Genomics program, which is directed by Dr. John Adams, distinguished university and USF Health professor.

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