2022 Codeathon to explore rare, neglected diseases

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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one billion people—one-sixth of the world’s population—suffer from one or more of thousands of rare, neglected diseases. 

In an effort to better understand those diseases using data science approaches, the USF College of Public Health’s (COPH) Genomics Program, in partnership with Shriners Hospitals for Children, will host its three-day 2022 One Health Codeathon virtually from Feb. 28 to March 2. 

Group photo of 2020 (pre-COVID-19) codeathon. (Photo courtesy of Wang)

“We will investigate a few rare/neglected diseases as well as diseases in a diverse range of species, from mammals to coral,” said Dr. Derek Wildman, a COPH professor and the chief organizer of the event. “The grand challenge of this codeathon is to develop ways to extract data and information rapidly and thoroughly about these diseases, to point the way toward novel therapeutics and interventions that can help reduce disease burden.”


What’s a codeathon? According to Dr. Chengqi “Charley” Wang, a COPH research assistant professor and one of the organizers of the event, it’s an intensely collaborative, time-limited data workshop that encourages teams of participants to produce software prototypes that solve problems related to a common biomedical topic. 

“Our previous events, which centered on rare iron-related diseases and host-microbiome interaction, were transdisciplinary efforts designed to complement and unite local USF research programs, inspiring participation from clinicians, genetic counselors and researchers from a diversity of biomedical fields at all different career-stages,” Wang said.

Participants work in small groups during the 2020 codeathon, which took place before the outbreak of COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Wang)

What to expect

This year’s codeathon, formally titled “Exploring Rare and Neglected Diseases: Harnessing Data Sciences to Make Voices of Rare Diseases Heard,” will address challenges related to rare/neglected diseases. All coding skill levels are welcome at the event.

“We’ll investigate the need for novel computational tools to handle large, recently generated heterogeneous datasets,” Wildman explained.  

He noted that multiple teams with interdisciplinary research backgrounds will focus on a variety of areas including (but not limited to):

  • Developing automated pipelines for conducting meta analyses and systematic reviews
  • Rapid extraction of genomic data from these diseases
  • Developing classification systems to compare diseases to each other
  • Neglected diseases in marine species other than human
  • Pharmacogenomics of rare diseases

Why participate?

“The One Health Codeathon is a social coding event that brings in interdisciplinary researchers for three days of coding. It will challenge students/researchers to expand their comfort zone,” Wang said. “If they want to learn programming or software design, the codeathon is one of the best places to push their skills to the next level. At codeathon, students/researchers are able to apply all that they have learned to projects with real-world impact. It will generate networking and help participants meet potential collaborators and find friends in their future careers. Participants can improve their résumés and their job recruitment possibilities. Our routine is to disseminate team efforts and findings in an open-access peer-review publication, listing all the names of participants.”

For more information, click here. To register by Feb. 4, click here.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health