HudsonAlpha, Acclinate Genetics and Urban Engine to host hackathon in March


Registration is now open for the 2020 HudsonAlpha Tech Challenge 

Huntsville, Ala. – The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is teaming with Acclinate Genetics and Urban Engine to design and grow the HudsonAlpha Tech Challenge for a third year.

The HudsonAlpha Tech Challenge, or HATCH, is a life sciences hackathon where participants compete to solve real-world issues faced by researchers in genomics, genetics and biotechnology. This year’s hackathon will take place March 6-8, 2020 on the HudsonAlpha campus in Huntsville. 

“The Tech Challenge highlights HudsonAlpha’s collaborative environment that has proven successful over the past decade but provides a competitive, engaging way for people throughout Alabama to craft innovative approaches to some of the world’s most complex problems,” said Carter Wells, vice president for economic development at HudsonAlpha. “I invite people with interest or background in genomics, computer science, biology, software engineering, data analytics, software development or entrepreneurship to contact us about participating in this one-of-a-kind experience.”

The 2019 hackathon brought in 70 participants and 20 teams made up of high school students, college students, and professionals including Huntsville engineer Victor Vega. His daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed by HudsonAlpha researchers in 2015 with Rett syndrome, a rare neurodegenerative disorder. Vega said the hackathon combined his love for problem solving with a newly found passion of genetics research. 

“When I saw a genetics themed hackathon, I knew I had to sign up!” he said. “I enjoy solving new and difficult problems so as a father of a daughter with a genetic disorder, I have been looking for a way to use those skills to find answers. HudsonAlpha provided an avenue for the Huntsville STEM community to come together and solve problems in a new field that can positively change how we live and prosper as humans.” 

Workforce development is a key focus area of not only HudsonAlpha, but Huntsville as well. In 2014, the city announced the Launch 2035 initiative, which unites the counties of Limestone, Madison and Morgan in outlining a 20-year vision to ensure North Alabama continues to prosper. The plan highlights three focus areas that will generate new jobs and business opportunities, including workforce development. A hackathon is a creative way to introduce jobs that will be in high demand as the region continues to grow. In November 2019, Launch 2035 released the findings of a regional labor study and forecast of future growth. Among the recommendations were investment in local hackathons to increase interest in related technology careers and opportunities.

2019 HATCH participants, mentors and volunteers

“The HudsonAlpha Tech Challenge is another example in the region that showcases the best and brightest solving the next big technical challenges faced by the healthcare industry,” said Erin Koshut, executive director of Cummings Research Park. “We’re proud of the work HudsonAlpha and their collaborators are doing to make the impossible possible and to utilize top talent through hackathons like those presented at HATCH 2020.”

HATCH showcases career opportunities at HudsonAlpha and resident associate companies like Acclinate Genetics, collaborator and sponsor for this year’s event. 

Acclinate works to achieve health equity and personalized healthcare for all by diversifying genomic data and clinical research. The company welcomed 2017 HATCH participant Georgiana Wright as an intern in 2019 to help address healthcare disparities. 

“HATCH had a profound impact on me as a student at New Century High School. Although I had always planned on pursuing a career in STEAM, HATCH gave me the opportunity to learn about biotech and apply my skills directly toward industry challenges,” said Wright. “Now just a couple years later, through my involvement, I have the opportunity to actually intern for a biotech company at HudsonAlpha and pay that experience forward to students from across the state. I trust that the 2020 participants will create impactful solutions and make worthwhile connections.”

“The participants in the HATCH competition have interests that align with Acclinate’s goal of educating communities on the importance of being represented in medicine,” said Tiffany Jordan, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Acclinate. “We are excited to activate them in this competition and hope to see them do even greater things in biotech in the near future.”

HudsonAlpha is also collaborating with Urban Engine a Huntsville-based nonprofit that specializes in innovation programs including hackathons and business accelerators. Since the program’s conception in 2014, HudsonAlpha has worked with Urban Engine to leverage their expertise and unique ecosystem-driven platform to design a program that would engage those with an interest in entrepreneurship and technological innovation to learn, connect and collaborate.

“Urban Engine has seen program participants travel from as far as Texas and California to engage in our programming, which further validates the workforce findings in Launch 2035’s labor study,” said Toni Eberhart from Urban Engine. “We have an awesome team working to enhance the program even further in its third year. Urban Engine, HudsonAlpha and Acclinate believe that HATCH can become the world’s most highly anticipated biotech hackathon. With opportunities for anyone – regardless of experience level or skill set – to receive mentorship from the Institute’s researchers, coaching from seasoned business leaders and experts in emerging technologies, we see this as a truly incredible program with the potential to shape the professional trajectory of its participants and make a lasting impact on the culture of Huntsville’s startup ecosystem.” 

Challenge participants must be 16 years of age or older. It is recommended that they have taken an advanced biology, genetics, or a biotech related course, or have professional experience in those fields to better grasp the challenge concepts. 

Participants do not have to be part of a team to register. HudsonAlpha, Acclinate and Urban Engine will assist in the creation of teams at the kickoff event March 6, which will help individuals identify the best fit according to their interests and skills. 

To register and learn more about sponsorships, rules and challenges, visit hudsonalpha.org/techchallenge

Check out highlights from HATCH 2019

HudsonAlpha Media Contact:
Margetta Thomas
mthomas@hudsonalpha.org
256-327-0425

About HudsonAlpha: HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to developing and applying scientific advances to health, agriculture, learning, and commercialization. Opened in 2008, HudsonAlpha’s vision is to leverage the synergy between discovery, education, medicine, and economic development in genomic sciences to improve the human condition around the globe. The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. The state-of-the-art facilities co-locate nonprofit scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. HudsonAlpha has become a national and international leader in genetics and genomics research and biotech education and fosters more than 35 diverse biotech companies on campus. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit hudsonalpha.org.

About Acclinate Genetics: Acclinate Genetics was founded with a mission of helping clinical research organizations achieve the most representative research sample by expanding their genomic studies and clinical trials to include diverse ethnic groups. We believe diversifying genomic research and clinical trials to include more people of color increases knowledge about health issues and makes a difference in personalized healthcare for all.

About Urban Engine: Urban Engine propels the growth of Alabama’s economy by connecting aspiring entrepreneurs and established business leadership to educational resources, talent, and community. Urban Engine contributes heavily to Alabama’s innovation ecosystem by cultivating a dynamic workforce, professional development through creative autonomy, and the entrepreneurial gumption to launch and build thriving businesses. Founded in 2015 through its various programs and events, Urban Engine activates its mission by offering over 150 free innovation education events annually including CoWorking Night, 32/10 and OpenHuntsville that focus on high-growth technology startups, professional workforce development, and innovation competitions. Urban Engine is a registered, IRS Designated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.