LongHack, the longevity hackathon hosted by DeSci organization VitaDAO, was held on January 20th-23rd, 2023. Gathering researchers, developers, and other interested parties to create new tools and solutions for longevity, ten teams competed to impress the judging panel and take home of the prizes: 5,500 VITA and 3,500 USD, 1,000 VITA and 1,000 EUR, and 2,500 VITA and 1,500 USD, with hack-age taking home the grand prize.
We spoke with the organizers behind the event to find out the insights behind what makes hackathons such fascinating events, what really happens behind the scenes, and the impact that hackathons can have long-term.
Who are the organizers?
The saying goes that many hands make light work, but this is definitely not the case at a hackathon, where every hand on board matters. As an intense event, usually held over a weekend, hackathons are a sprint of activity, but that’s only after the planning’s been done. Behind the scenes are the organizational team, mentors, and sponsors who make the hackathon come to life.
This year’s sponsors included Lifespan.io, the Healthy Life Extension Society (HEALES), Albert Einstein College of Medicine, R42, Foresight Institute, and the International Longevity Alliance.
Industry professionals, including Nir Barzilai; Helena Slama; Dr. Marcus Ranney; Anastasiya Giarletta; Valentin Angerer; Keith Comito; Pritam Kumar Panda; Didier Coeurnelle; Sonali Khanra; Ph.D Lifesciences, AI/ML; Omair Ahmed; Evelyne Yehudit Bischof, MD, MPH, FEFIM; Manuel Riegner; Laurence Ion; Ramkumar Hariharan, PhD; and Alex Dobrin, acted as mentors for the competing teams.
Lifespan.io caught up with two of the experts behind the event, Pritam Kumar Panda and Ekaterina Melnichikhina, to find out more.
What do you think are the benefits of hackathons in general?
Ekaterina: Depends on the stakeholders.
For the organizers (challenge organizers): solutions for the problem they want to tackle, visibility, and human resources.
For the participants: an opportunity to realize their ideas, try their expertise in an entrepreneurial format, network and exchange experience, and become visible to the field’s decision makers.
Pritam: I would say the rule of NCI: Networks, Collaboration, and Innovation. This also gives a perspective of how to tackle any challenges within a short span of time, which makes you feel confident and gives you a sense of accomplishment in the specified field (longevity in our case). Having an opportunity to work with like-minded people and deepen your knowledge puts you in a position to work as a team towards achieving a higher purpose, a goal that surpasses the individual concept of sharing knowledge and accomplishing great achievements.
How did you come up with the idea for LongHack, and what sets it apart from other hackathon events?
Ekaterina: Together with LongHack co-founder Dima Syrotkin, we decided to try the hackathon format in the longevity space, which Dima was interested in. The LongHack team arranged the first international Longevity hackathon ever. There were no hackathons in the longevity space before September 2021. This year we organized a longevity hackathon for VitaDAO and plan to continue this collaboration.
Pritam: As mentioned by Ekaterina, it was founded by Dima Syrotkin and Ekaterina approached me to take the role of scientific advisor. I am responsible for defining the scientific challenges and here we are with three successful hackathon events. This year we organized the longevity hackathon for VitaDAO and plan to continue this collaboration.
Did you personally have a particular standout project this year? Any personal faves you would love to see continuing their work?
Ekaterina: This year, we had many interesting projects and each of them had its own strengths. Some projects had strong teams, and some surprised us with innovative approaches. Anyway, the winners were pretty obvious. In judging criteria, we made emphasis on innovation, team, business model, and proper time management. However, the evolving process of the project and team within the weekend played an important role as well.
Pritam: Based on the scientific challenges, we had three categories: Drug Discovery, Deep Learning or AI, and Genomics. Every year, we get so many exciting projects in each and every domain. This year, the winner focused on the therapeutic area utilizing the latest AI breakthroughs in drug discovery and formulated a concept of protein modeling similar to the AlphaFold2 project. The rest of the winners focused on latest technologies for personalized medicine, such as an end-to-end genetic analysis platform and a prognosis tool for clinicians.
What’s next for the hackathon team? Will LongHack be back again next year?
Ekaterina: We are already discussing when we should make another VitaDAO hackathon. This collaboration seems fruitful, and the LongHack and VitaDAO project team is excited to continue as well as our mentors.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Ekaterina: We encourage everyone interested in longevity to challenge themselves by taking part in our upcoming hackathons. It is a great experience at any stage of professional development.
Pritam: If you share a passion with a large group of individuals, you have a fantastic opportunity to network with some of the brightest minds from all over the world and learn even more about your shared passion. And that’s precisely what hackathons are for: giving programmers and developers a chance to pool their expertise and produce groundbreaking work in the longevity space. It’s also the best way to get into networking and make new, useful connections as a business on the rise.
Since technical possibilities are infinite, it follows that technological progress can never be halted. If you get to work with individuals you click with and whose knowledge you want to expand, you’ll be in a better position to work together for a common objective that transcends the individual ideal of knowledge transfer and great accomplishment. You will get the opportunity to learn the value of effective communication and the power of working together with others.
Every hackathon is a location of invention, as fresh ideas are one of the key reasons for holding them. It’s the best location to think about innovative ways to solve problems and create software and technological solutions. It’s a great chance to bring together professionals from diverse areas of business to collaborate on finding answers to, or perhaps preventing, global challenges. As a result, hackathons are gatherings that serve to spark creativity.
We would like to ask you a small favor. We are a non-profit foundation, and unlike some other organizations, we have no shareholders and no products to sell you. We are committed to responsible journalism, free from commercial or political influence, that allows you to make informed decisions about your future health.
All our news and educational content is free for everyone to read, but it does mean that we rely on the help of people like you. Every contribution, no matter if it’s big or small, supports independent journalism and sustains our future. You can support us by making a donation or in other ways at no cost to you.
GIVE PER MONTH
Write a comment: