BRAC University students have embarked with a revolutionary idea to save the Buriganga river pollution, by attempting to create a genetically modified bacteria to eradicate the harmful heavy metals of the river water. The idea was brainstormed by seven participating teams. The team with the best solution was awarded as the winner of the First Ever ChemBio HACKATHON in Bangladesh organized by Department of Pharmacy, BRAC University on Thursday April 30, 2017.
Their computationally designed microorganism was acknowledged by the HACKATHON judges as the most feasible one among all comparable entries from the seven participating teams.
The competitors started off with a HACKATHON challenge given to them to design a bacteria similar to a sample bacteria from the Singapore River, the waters of which in the 1970s resembled that of what flows in the Buriganga at present.
Using In silico sequencing tools, databases, computational modelling and visualizing softwares, the students made bacterial genetic alterations to engineer a bacteria which is capable of turning the toxic hexavalent chromium (Cr [VI]) into a less toxic trivalent chromium (Cr [III]).
The winning team also proposed to craft the bacteria in the laboratory and test it’s effect by using water samples from Buriganga river and, once successful, attempt the actual clean up of the river by bringing along industrial partners.
The winners also used different softwares and tools to propose the most workable solutions to two other HACKATHON challenges on computer aided drug designing during the ChemBio HACKATHON.
One challenge was to repurpose a drug to treat colon cancer, one of the most prevalent cancer in Bangladesh. The third challenge was to design biologics to prevent tumour growth during cancer.
The HACKATHON day was a non-stop 11 hours session on 1 April, 2017 where the teams were given resources and support to brainstorm their ideas to the HACKATHON challenge and then came up with some solutions. The teams delivered their results during the HACKATHON Presentation Day on 13 April, 2017 at the BRAC University Auditorium in front of distinguished guests, faculty members and students from different universities. Earlier, they took part in a three days long ChemBio HACKATHON training session started on 28 March, 2017.
Vice Chancellor Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb, Ph.D and Professor Eva Rahman Kabir, Ph.D announced the winning team of the First Ever ChemBio HACKATHON in Bangladesh and awarded certificates to all participants and four trainers during the Award Ceremony held at BRAC University, 66 Mohakhali, Dhaka from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
He said students have to take ownership of national interests, especially the environment. He pointed out the dramatic changes that have been brought about by BRAC University students in various occasions such as nation’s first ever nanosatellite Onnesha. He also urged on industry-academic ties to become stronger.
Professor Andaleeb also hoped that the water of Buriganga and all other rivers will get the desired oxygen levels and the marine life will return. He asked the students to focus on it by addressing such problems.
He further added, BRACU stood out as its faculty engaged students in real time scientific enrichment instead of just imparting lessons in classes and assessment through exams, and this can lead to increased manifolds of the amount of knowledge gained by the students, he said.
Professor Eva Rahman Kabir, PhD, Chairperson (Current Charge), Department of Pharmacy, gave the welcome speech and thanked all the distinguished guests for coming to the Award Ceremony. She mentioned that Chem Bio HACKATHON was not just an event but was the beginning of something different, leading to innovation in the world of Data Science and Big Data.
Mohammad Kawsar Sharif Siam, a faculty member of the Department of Pharmacy and an organiser, said the ChemBio HACKATHON aimed to bridge between theoretical knowledge and related scientific solutions to inspire the next generation students so that they engage themselves to address the critical problems of our environment and our health care system.
Anika Nawar Mahmood, a member of the ChemBio HACKATHON winning team and one of the students of Department of Pharmacy said that success was possible only because of an effective team work.
Shannon Sherwin Moreino, a student of Department of Pharmacy, BRACU, who won an award for the best presentation, hoped for more such competitions to sharpen his skills.
Nuvista Pharma Limited Chairman & Managing Director Akhter Matin Chaudhury graced the event with his presence. Other distinguished guests of honour included Kamran Bakr, Chairman & Managing Director, Unilever Bangladesh; Afroz Jalil, Country Manager, Roche Pharmaceuticals; and Sk. Abdul Goni, Head of Market Access & Biosimilar Lead, Roche Bangladesh Limited; Nawabur Rahman, Technical Operations Director, SQUARE Pharmaceuticals Limited.; Nakibur Rahman, Marketing Director, GSK.; and Dr. Ansar Ahmed, Director of Institutional Effectiveness, BRAC University.