Friday, March 4, 2016

Hack-a-thon spurs innovation for global cancer care

HACK-A-THONERS: Participants gather together to create solutions

to cancer challenges in low-income countries.

Inspired by stories from the field and passionate about transforming cancer care around the world, more than 180 global health experts and innovators came together Feb. 27-28 at the MGH for the Global Cancer Innovation Hack-a-thon.

Over two days, participants formed cross-disciplinary teams of clinicians, engineers, entrepreneurs and designers to develop solutions to existing cancer challenges, particularly those afflicting patients in low-and middle-income countries. From low-cost screening devices to patient empowermenttools, participants created more than 20 innovations in 48 hours and presented their prototypes to a panel of judges. A total of $3,000 was awarded to winning teams in a number of categories, including “Most Implementable Technology,” “Most Innovative Solution” and “Best Business Model.”   

The event was organized by the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) at the MGH Center for Global Health, Global Oncology and the MGH Cancer Center.  The event included a special Voices from the Field panel discussion offering firsthand accounts from global oncology experts and a cancer survivor. More than 30 clinical, technical and business experts also were available to mentor participants as they worked around the clock to pitch ideas, prototype solutions and develop business models for their innovations.

“The economic and emotional burden of cancer is devastating no matter where you live, but in low-and middle-income countries, it can mean choosing between feeding your family and seeking care,” said Thomas (Ti) Jones, MD, a Peace Corps volunteer in Mbarara, Uganda, who also served as a mentor and panelist. “This weekend I saw so many enthusiastic innovators developing technologies so that cancer patients don’t have to face that choice.”

In addition to the events in Boston, participants in Uganda and India participated in the hack-a-thon remotely, sharing ideas on social media and presenting their technologies via teleconference in India and to a separate group of judges in Uganda.

“This hack-a-thon experience was so unique because we had access to medical professionals and mentors from all over the world,” said participant Nancy Hung, an MIT student.“Their stories and experiences were so inspiring and really helped structure how we developed our project.” 

Read more articles from the 03/04/16 Hotline issue.

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