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BCG-COVID 19 Hackathon: Task 1 winners announced, Task 2 – data scientists – we need you!

Posted on September 10th, 2020 by in COVID-19

We’ve seen the scientific community come together time and again throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re thrilled to have been part of a hackathon bringing together data scientists, epidemiologists and partner organizations focusing on analysing the hypothesis of whether the tuberculosis (TB) vaccine – BCG – could reduce COVID-19 mortality.

After the news hype mounted about COVID-19 and the BCG, Estafet and Elsevier came together to see if they could work with data scientists and the scientific community to help them to unearth true causation – rather than the correlation identified by researchers. Prof. Madhukar Pai (Dept of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health, McGill University) warned clearly about the risk of fanning the hype and the danger of causing a run on the BCG vaccine when it is still very much needed. When Elsevier’s Anita de Waard (VP Research Collaborations) spoke to Prof. Pai, he connected her with Dr. Alice Zwerling (University of Ottawa), who is currently responsible for maintaining the BCG World Atlas – a project initiated by Prof Pai. It became clear that to find new insights for BCG-COVID 19 trials, a better use of the power of data science would be to augment the data on the BCG World Atlas, so the hackathon was split into two.

And the winners are …

Task 1 – augmenting the BCG Atlas with the help of NLP (Natural Language Processing) and Text Mining – wrapped up this month, culminating in over 100 notebooks being submitted and generating a substantial amount of data for incorporation into the Atlas.

Second prize went to Marouane Benmeida. Marouane generated an additional 33 entities for BCG Atlas and was awarded $2000.

First prize went to Dimitrina Zlatkova. Dimitrina generated an additional 57 entities for the BCG Atlas, and was awarded $3000.

It’s an extraordinary outcome for extraordinary times, and we’d very much like to thank not only Dimitrina and Marouane for their great contributions, but all the volunteers who came together to make this happen! The data created by the hackathon will help current correlations with COVID-19, but is also in itself of critical importance to researchers who work on tuberculosis vaccines.

The hackathon continues

And we’re not finished yet! In Task 2, Data Scientists will use this augmented data to find new insights for the BCG-COVID-19 clinical trials. Participants will be seeking to answer questions like:

Is the BCG vaccination causally related to reduced COVID‐19 mortality or other factors like lockdown and average age of the population are responsible for the different mortality rates?

If BCG vaccination reduces COVID-19 mortality, what are the key factors? For example:

  • How long does the immunity engendered by BCG last after vaccination?
  • Which BCG strain has been used?
  • What is the optimal time to vaccinate?

If you’ve been inspired by this outcome and want to come on board for the second task, we’d welcome any and all input. For more detailed information on that task, and for those interested in continuing to contribute new data to the BCG Atlas, please visit the hackathon site and get involved!

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