This year’s NEXT NYC conference at Spring Studios was a resounding success—featuring speakers from Medidata, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, the Biden Cancer Initiative (with former Second Lady Jill Biden herself), and much more—catering to a diverse audience of over one thousand life sciences professionals during the two-day event.
Amid all the electricity and excitement of NEXT NYC, low and behold, something else amazing was quietly taking place a mere two blocks away. Professionals from over seven different companies congregated to take part in a budding and time-honored tradition: The Medidata Hackathon, or #Medihack, at NEXT NYC. This year’s event, however, stands out from those of the past:
According to Chief Hack Officer Ross Rothmeier, there is one golden rule to abide by in the Hackathon: there are no rules. Participants were encouraged to follow their passions, and team up with other individuals seeking to solve similar problems. But this year, for the first time ever, #Medihack had a theme: Closing the Diversity Gap in Clinical Trials.
Participants were encouraged to conceptualize and build innovative solutions to stimulate diversity in clinical trials, and enjoyed the privilege of hearing Dr. Janna Andrews, Director of Radiation Medicine at Phelps Memorial Hospital and founder of the non-profit Kicked It In Heels, explore the history of disparity in medicine.
At 1:30 PM on Wednesday, October 24, a select group of NEXT attendees followed the route highlighted in Medidata green and blue sidewalk chalk from Spring Studios to the Soho Grand Hotel, this year’s #Medihack headquarters. Participants were privy to a team of dedicated Medidatians and seasoned hack-veterans, who ventured to NYC from a range of locations across the globe to offer their expertise.
Activities kicked off with two sessions exploring the Medidata platform and data infrastructure, or MEDS. What began as a high level overview of the technological capabilities of the Medidata platform, led by Moises Do Nascimento, developed into a deep dive into the ways in which data is pulled from eclectic sources to encompass our larger data pool.
An overwhelming collective interest in the various data pathways and the future of data infrastructure here at Medidata served as a seamless transition into a technical panel and Q&A session with several Medidata experts.
Next, our very own Lisa Rivera laid out the design thinking framework, including approaching complex obstacles, brainstorming, and ultimately, conceptualization. The real work began with a brainstorming session, during which everyone revisited the presentation of Dr. Andrews and imagined every possible obstacle to more diverse clinical trials (think a lot of post-it notes!).
It became readily apparent that this was our most ambitious Hackathon. All of the participants saw the need to address issues like trust, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, and other disparities that are not easy to resolve with technology.
The winning team, Team DivUnix, chose to power two key roles with tools built on Medidata platform APIs. For sponsors, they developed a diversity dashboard, which allows them to view the status of trials and portfolios of patient diversity targets based on statistical models. They designed a portal to provide emerging treatment options for patients, caregivers, and community organizations that engage with underserved populations. As blockchain technology can ensure that information is not biased by commercial or other interests, the portal was intended to increase trust by underserved groups that need options.
While the true winners of this year’s Hackathon are all of us who are humbled and inspired by the call to this important issue, It is an honor to recognize a team whose very name represents our goal: “DivUnix”, standing for diversity and unity, and this is a testament to what these participants achieved with their application.
Thanks to Google for their sponsorship, the 100+ registrants who recognized the value of the Diversity in clinical trials, and to the diversity mentors who helped enlighten and inspire us!