40 medical and veterinarian students, doctors, infection control practitioners and individuals working in the health sector got on this occasion together to work on one of the most serious threats to global public health, Antimicrobial resistance. Backed by mentors from industry, academia and EIT Health Germany, the hackathon participants were given the scenario “Strong superbug with super resistance?” and were asked to look deeper into 8-10 approaches for resolving the problem. Starting with technology scouting of the current solution landscape, to the identification of involved stakeholders, regulatory framework, all the way up to scalability of the solution.
The Result: A contribution to the One Health Initiative (A European One Health Action Plan against AMR) with a White Paper.
The three-day event was accompanied by expert presentations from representatives from the industry and academia, that served as guidance for the participating teams. For example, we had Mrs. Olga Makarova, from Freie universität Berlin, who was our keynote speaker and she welcomed the participants on Friday evening with an overview of the topic, current challenges and possible therapy mechanisms for AMR. Other mentors included: Marco Masia from Initiative for science in Europe, who explained the correlation between science and policy, Dr. Ramzy Helou from Erasmus MC, who highlighted the relevance of Antimicrobial Resistance Stewardship, Mark Sutton from Public Health England, who guided us through the current methods to identify and tackle AMR from the public health perspective, António Ornelas-Soares from Beam Alliance, Elisabetta Cacace from EMBL, Pablo-David Rojas, from Hacking Health and more.
“It was inspirational to see so many bright and driven young people from all over Europe come together and work collaboratively to help find solutions to AMR. The teams addressed the issues not only in the area of R&D for new antimicrobials, where much action is needed, but also in prevention, focusing on improvements in awareness, vaccination and hygiene – in a true spirit of One Health approach. I was especially impressed by how innovative the solutions were, which ranged from using gene-editing technologies and extending the life cycle of antimicrobials to gamification and citizen science. AMR is a complex issue, but with so much talent, enthusiasm and creative energy, I am optimistic about the ability of Europe to tackle this problem, ” stated Olga Makarova, Group leader at Freie universität Berlin.
Following two days on intensive work, research and guidance by the mentors, the teams were ready to present their ideas in front of the jury. Nine innovative ideas were brought to the table. One team used CRISPR to tackle AMR, another one turned to phages as a possible solution, and a third one used an approach with immunomodulatory therapeutics. Vaccination awareness was the solution for another team, and so on.
And the winners are…
The jury decided that the best idea was I-tree Health Approach, presented by Satish, Julia, Lara, Aakanksha and Issam. The winning team won an entry ticket to the EIT Health Summit in Paris in December 2019. However, our partner and supporter of the event, Hacking Health, was so impressed with the ideas presented that they decided to award one more team, for their “visionary idea and excellent presentation.”
Congratulations to all the winners and a big thank you to all the partners and supporters. Until next year…