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Covid19 Hack-a-thon

Hosted by the Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases
25-26 March 2020

The Event

Two Days of Collaboration
25-26 March 2020

On March 25th, at 2 PM PST, over 80 participants from around the world – ranging from Berkeley to New York City to France and India – hopped on a Zoom call to participate in the 2020 CEND COVID19 Hackathon, to address many issues coming from the pandemic. Some participants came with nearly fully-formed ideas, ready to hit the ground running as soon as the hackathon started in hopes to bring some attention to their projects. Others came in with an eagerness to help in any capacity they could, ranging with skillsets in engineering, coding, molecular virology, public policy, and beyond.

Submissions were due 24 hours later – which meant participants were up all night, “hacking” away at the complex problems the world is facing. Teams worked on projects ranging from a plan for national level pathogen surveillance at airports to an online visualization tool to view current healthcare capacity resource available related to COVID-19 infection.

The winning teams were announced just after 5:30 PM. The judging committee, comprised of individuals from backgrounds in venture capital, biotech, engineering, and public policy, ended up choosing two teams as the winners: COVID-ALERT and COVentilator.

COVID ALERT’s project was a low-cost at-home COVID-19 diagnostic test based on a nucleic acid amplification reaction RT-LAMP (Reverse Transcription-Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification) assay being developed by team members Ali Bektas and Anitha Jayaprakash.  It would be a simple one step operation, involving a nasal swab sample collection and insertion into a portable"thermal chamber", with visual read outs of results within 30 minutes.


Team Members

Tara deBoer-– Founder, CEO, BioAmp Diagnostics, Inc.

Ali Bektas*-– Plant Molecular Biologist

Anitha Jayaprakash*-– Co-Founder, Girihlet

Celine Perier– Grantwriter, Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases

Jack Sumner– Undergraduate Student, Cal Poly, starting Graduate Studies at Northwestern University in the Fall

Trent Gomberg– Research Specialist, Stealth Genomic Therapeutic Company

Diana Flores– Research Coordinator, University of California San Fransisco

Julia Walsh– Professor Emerita UC Berkeley School of Public Health

Coventilator designed a low-cost, open source ventilator that would run for under $300 to develop. The venilator design would be easily deployable to meet urgent needs and improved design to include essential features that current low-cost, mass produced ventilators lack.

Team Members

Eric Bennett-– Founder, Frontier Bio

Winnie Liang-– COO, Neptune Fluid Flow Systems

Michael Salisbury— Environmental Scientist 

Jonathan Budzik— Visiting Scholar, Cox Laboratory | Adjunct Asst. Professor, UCSF Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine

Achal Nilhani— Undergraduate in Electronic Engineering, Jadavpur University

Annesya Banerjee— Undergraduate in Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering, Jadavpur University


Both teams were given a generous cash price donated by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and a guaranteed interview spot for the CITRIS Foundry Business Development Accelerator program. They are also being granted access to the CITRIS mentorship network.

Two other teams were recognized by the CITRIS Foundry and given guaranteed interview spots and access to the network. These were Team Quarantine and Sound Approach. Team Quarantine presented a medical device using deep ultraviolet light as a tool for healthcare and consumers to safely mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak, and future biological threats. Deep UV can be used to safely disinfect aerosolized viral particles, surface biological contaminants, and more. Sound Approach proposed a Point of Care Ultrasound Screening System for COVID-19, as a rapid method to decide whether an individual should self-quarantine.

We are incredibly excited about the projects that came out of this Hackathon and look forward to seeing where all of the teams go!

If you're interested in learning more about or CEND, please contact Isabelle Charles at

CEND's Mission
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About CEND

The mission of the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging & Neglected Diseases (CEND) is to help the University of California, Berkeley make innovative and substantial contributions to the global response to emerging and neglected infectious diseases.

Learn more on our website

Official Schedule

Wednesday, March 25th

2:00 PM: Opening Remarks, CEND

2:30 PM: The Current State of the Covid-19 Pandemic

4:30 PM: Break out into groups

Thursday, March 26th

9:00 AM: Q&A, CEND

9:10 AM: Group breakouts

12:00 PM: Accessing Covid-19 Funding Opportunities - Celine Perier, PhD, Grantwriter, CEND

12:30 PM: Group breakouts

2:00 PM: Final projects due to judging committee

5:30 PM: Hack-a-thon winners announced

6:00 PM: Closing Remarks, CEND

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