COPH hosts the 2020 USF One Health Codeathon, readies for 2021 event (VIDEO)

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The second annual USF One Health Codeathon was held last February, before the onslaught of COVID-19.

What’s a codeathon?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a codeathon (aka hackathon) is an event in which “researchers and [computer program/software] coders from a variety of backgrounds … work together and create tools and tutorial pipelines that solve relevant problems for the biomedical community.”

The USF event was presented by the USF College of Public Health’s (COPH) genomics program and sponsored by the university’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and the Environment (IASCE) in collaboration with the USF Initiative on Microbiomes.

USF One Health Codeathon 2020

The theme of the 2020 codeathon was “Host Microbiome Interactions in a Global System.” 

Microbiomes are microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, in and on our bodies and our environment. The types of bacteria that exist in our gut may cause or contribute to disease (e.g., obesity, inflammation, cancer, autism) and may also be a key to cures or treatment, reported organizers of the event. “Humans do not survive alone,” said the COPH’s Dr. Rays Jiang, who organized the 2020 codeathon together with others in USF genomics and the USF library system. “We are in constant contact with the great varieties of microbiomes in us, on us and surrounding us. Modern technologies are generating large amounts of data on both microbiome and human health, and cross-disciplinary research is necessary to put together a big picture of integrated health. However, different researchers are bound by their domain terminologies and training background limitations, which makes true collaboration difficult.”

Rays Jiang, PhD, (at podium) speaking at the 2020 USF One Health Codeathon. (Photo by Katrina Lyons)

Collaborative, interdisciplinary

The 2020 USF One Health Codeathon brought together participants from the COPH, College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences, Moffitt Cancer Center, Morsani College of Medicine, College of Nursing and the USF Tampa Bay Technology Incubator

“It was one of the most interdisciplinary coding events ever held at USF, bringing together nearly 50 faculty, research scientists, graduate students and undergraduates,” said Jiang. “Our codeathon managed to breach the barriers by bringing together people in direct contact and cooperation in an intense working format.”

Highlights of the event included:

  • The development of new computational tools, including ways to diagnose diseases, track outbreaks, analyze how dangerous chemicals in the environment affect microbiomes and understand how microbiomes evolve. 
  • A team-authored publication, “Uncovering host-microbiome interactions in global systems with collaborative programming: A novel approach integrating social and data sciences.” The paper is to be published in the journal F1000.

2021 One Health Codeathon

The 2021 One Health Codeathon, sponsored by the COPH’s genomics program in partnership with USF’s Global Virus Network (GVN), will be held virtually from Feb. 24-26. This year’s theme, appropriately enough, is “Collaborative Coding in the Time of COVID: Harnessing Data Sciences Against Pandemics.”

“We are living the COVID pandemic, and our topic will be addressing the most pressing questions in the prevention and management of future pandemics,” said Jiang. “We will keep the same cross-disciplinary format while joining hands with GVN and our global health research collaborators. This is an important event for people with domain expertise who want to collaborate with others and make an impactful change in the way we understand, explore and harness data related to pandemics.”

For more information about the 2021 codeathon and to register (by Feb. 5), visit the USF Genomics website. An introduction to Codeathons will be given during the USF Genomics Forum on Tuesday, Jan. 19, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health