Creative ideas take out top awards at Stem Cell Hackathon

9 December 2019


A stem cell classification game, an online umbilical cord blood portal, and data visualisation analysis systems have taken out the top awards of this year’s Stem Cell Hackathon.

The University of Queensland’s best and brightest minds left the judging panel with several difficult decisions to make following three days of creative and ingenious hacking at the inaugural event held by the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in August.

“I was so excited to see the range of ideas presented,” said organiser, Associate Professor Jessica Mar.

“One of the best things about hackathons is all the unique approaches people bring to their problems and the new thinking that is inspired from this combination.

“Hackathons are a great opportunity for people from different backgrounds and disciplines to come together, to think and work collaboratively to solve some of our biggest problems.”

At the awards night judge Alan Robertson (Founder of the start up ClearSKY Genomics)  handed out three Judges Prizes and a People’s Choice Award. You can view all the pitch entries on the Stem Cell Hackathon website.

Judges Prize 1: CellCAPTCHA

Team Name: cellCAPTCHA

Team members: Jordan Pennells, Zian Zhan, David Nguyen, Emily Yan, Berenice Heuberger

Team CellCAPTCHA, developed a stem cell classification game, which can be used to improve the accuracy of neural network to predict the differentiation state of stem cells and engage the broader population in the importance of stem cell research.

Judges Prize 2: Nudging Umbilical Cord Donation

Team Name: Generatestem
Team Members: Juan, Alexandra, Romanthi, Joseph, Lucas

This team aimed to increase the number of donations of umbilical cord blood in Australia, through education of the procedure during early pregnancy. Umbilical cord blood is one of the easiest tissues to collect stem cells from, getting more donations would enable more stem cell donor matches, to further enhance research capabilities. The developed a website that has all the information parents need to make an informed decision, including testimonials and quick facts.

Judges Prize 3: Double award to COLOSSI: User-friendly Automated Dataset QC and STEM ID

Team Name: Stem Cell ID
StemCellID Team Members: Julio Aguado, Cecilia Liliana Gomez, Jeryn Chang

Team Name: Datanauts
Datanauts Team Members: Andrew Su, Thomas Hassall, Sam Ngugi, Toan Phung, Matthew Rumanang

Both these teams addressed the problem of analysing large amounts of genetic data, produced by labs who don’t have the capabilities to analyse it.  Both teams use data visualisation to compare your RNA Expression data against different published references, to help speed up research, and address problems of research reproducibility. While these teams developed their hack independent of eachother, the overlap in their problems convinced our judges to award them both the prize.

People’s choice: What is your stem cell impact

Team Name: Team ACEkathon
Team Members: Selene Cannelli, Rhys Newell, Kim guyen-Phuoc, Beatrice Delgado Corrales, Jiari

This team addressed the issue of stem cell donor shortage. Only 0.5% of people are registered stem cell donors and 50% of those donors become uncontactable. The platform the team developed encourages people to sign up to be donors by collecting their information and giving them data on the impact being a donor could have. Users are given a profile to update with contact information and connected to a nearby clinic.

“I’m really proud of some of the innovative ideas and pitches our teams put together. So many of our participants demonstrated some real grit and tenacity to push through the weekend to arrive at the content that’s featured in these pitches. It really shows how important it is to combine different disciplines to produce innovative solutions.”