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Coronavirus Diagnostic Virtual Hackathon Hosted by the Center for Emerging & Neglected Diseases of UC Berkeley

In the face of the global coronavirus outbreak, the Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases (CEND) at UC Berkeley is hosting a Virtual Coronavirus Diagnostic Hackathon from March 25-26.

To explain what you can expect at the hackathon and how CEND is assisting with this crisis we are sitting down with CEND's Isabelle Charles in an exclusive interview below.

About the Hackathon

The virtual hackathon will bring students, academics, industry and public health professionals together in teams to solve this pressing global health challenge. Through online platforms and resources provided by CEND, teams will self-assemble and congregate virtually to develop innovative diagnostic approaches for coronavirus testing—which is currently a limiting factor in tracking and controlling the global spread of this outbreak.

The event also features:

  • talks from public health and bioscience experts
  • opportunities for mentorship from professionals from a range of backgrounds
  • a new low-cost ventilator design track

CEND Logo: Center for emerging and neglected diseases at the university of california, Berkely





To find out more & sign up to be a part of this landmark event go to: SARS-COV-2: Covid 19 virus depiction

Isabelle Charles on the Coronavirus Hackathon

In this interview, CEND's Isabelle Charles shares with us some insights about organizing the hackathon & engaging the community in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak:

What are the goals of the hackathon?

The primary goal of the hackathon is to bring together scientists and researchers from a variety of backgrounds to discuss the current state of diagnostics for COVID-19:

      • what the hold-ups are in bringing a product to the market?
      • where there is opportunity for improvement?
      • how to design efficient point-of-care diagnostics?

We are hoping that by bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and different skills - bioengineering, virology, epidemiology, health systems - we can bridge the gaps that are causing hold-ups in bringing a diagnostic onto the market. 

We also recently decided to expand the hackathon beyond just diagnostic, to include the design of a low-cost, open-source ventilator, to address what seems will be an inevitable ventilator shortage.

How did the idea for the event materialize?

We had several people reach out to CEND with ideas on wanting to collaborate to develop a diagnostic, asking for mentorship or resources, so we decided to connect this community of interested and engaged parties with each other and invite more to join the effort.

How will the hackathon benefit the CEND, Berkeley community, and beyond?

Of course, the best outcome would be that a tangible diagnostic product design comes out of this. At the least, however, we are excited to see how bringing together researchers of different backgrounds, who may not have interacted otherwise, can foster innovative scientific conversation and serve as a reminder of the importance of collaboration.

At what point did you decide to go virtual with the event?

When we first started brainstorming the idea of the hackathon, COVID-19 had not yet hit California. There was so much opportunity, and so many scientists throughout the Bay Area excited to jump in and begin working. Of course, the situation quickly escalated, and it became clear that social distancing measures needed to be put into place ASAP. That only underscored the importance of the event, so we decided to shift online, rather than have to cancel it.

We also realized this was an opportunity for a more inclusive event - we have partners all over the United States and the world. This will give an opportunity for people from everywhere to participate, and allow for people who may be immunocompromised or caretakers for the elderly to participate as well.

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

I think that something to consider amongst how rapidly this pandemic is evolving - we really need to trust our scientists. We've been getting warnings since the outbreak in China began, yet people only began taking this very seriously a couple of days ago, once we were already in a full-blown pandemic. This is a lesson we can attribute to problems beyond this specific pandemic - such as climate change.

"We need to trust, fund, and listen to science."

--Isabelle Charles, CEND

Organizer profile: sabelle Charles, CEND

Join the community teaming up to design better COVID-19 diagnostics at:



Shannon Weiman
Shannon Weiman earned her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, specializing in microbiology and immunology. Prior to joining the Keystone Symposia team, she worked as a freelance writer for leaders in academic, industry and government research, including Stanford University’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative, the University of Colorado’s Biofrontiers Program, UCSF, the FDA and the American Society for Microbiology.