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Hackathon Update – American Airlines and Children’s Tumor Foundation Experts Embark on Next Phase of Predictive Models for NF Tumors

By April 29, 2022December 4th, 2023Collaborations & Partnerships

Readers of this space will recall that last year over 300 participants took part in the Hack4Rare event hosted by the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF), bringing together healthcare startups, researchers, developers, solutions architects and hackathon enthusiasts for 5 weeks of high energy exploration, experimentation, and analysis. Their goal: to drive scientific and medical innovation and improve the lives of patients living with rare diseases. This was the third year of CTF’s “hack” into genomic, research, and imaging/clinical data on behalf of NF.

We’re pleased to report on the progress of one of the winning teams from the event, called “Team American”, which comprised of members of the Operations Research team at American Airlines, who built a Graph Neural Network (GNN) model to leverage genomic data in order to help classify patients into high/low risk categories, and find similar patients with known treatments. This novel approach demonstrated high accuracy in clustering tumor samples, with the promise of improved predictability for diagnosis.

You can watch the American Airlines team presentation here.

In the months that have followed, with the support and mentorship of researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), DNA Nexus, and the Children’s Tumor Foundation, along with an incubation grant from the Gilbert Family Foundation, the team has expanded their research to a bigger NF dataset. Needless to say, all involved are very excited about the promise this work holds for the NF space, and particularly patients. We’ll continue to provide updates as this work progresses.

We’re especially grateful to the American Airlines team and all involved, not just for what this could mean for patients, but also because this work is all-volunteer. Inspired by American Airlines credo “to care for people on life’s journey”, this dedicated group has shown what progress can be made when corporate, academic, and nonprofit institutions come together to solve important problems.

This partnership is part of a broader relationship that CTF has had with American Airlines IT teams and data experts over the past year. Introduced to NF and CTF by their colleague Patricia Ptasznik (an NF parent), IT and data experts from American Airlines and other partners recently came together for a ‘Charity Day’, with over 150 experts working on the establishment of a data warehouse for CTF’s constituent data, to aid in improved data analysis, dashboards, and visualizations to bolster CTF’s business strategies.  

Read the recap of the remarkable Charity Day here and watch the video here.