This is a private hackathon open to undergraduate and postgraduate students from African universities; see the full list of universities and university representatives here. If your university is participating you can reach out to them from 22 March for the secret code.
How to prepare for UmojaHack
DeepChain™ is a revolutionary new platform that uses deep learning to model protein interactions to help design better drugs and understand the biochemical world in more detail. One of the things it can be used for is to evaluate the effectiveness of neutralizing antibodies against viruses like COVID-19 and influenza.
In this challenge, InstaDeep is asking for your help to design a function to score how effectively an antibody binds to the influenza virus receptor binding domain. Identifying a neutralising antibody that effectively targets the influenza virus could offer enormous therapeutic potential.
The objective of this challenge is to predict the binding of influenza.
Influenza pandemics occur when a new flu virus can infect people and spread globally. In 1918, an estimated 500 million people (one-third of the world’s population) became infected with this virus, with at least 50 million people dying as a result. More recently the H3N2 variant has been shown to have dangerous pandemic potential.
We now use preventive measures to try and prevent such a catastrophe, in the form of annual vaccines. However, influenza’s genetic makeup is constantly evolving, preventing one single vaccine from being effective. As a result, we still have annual "seasonal flu" epidemics, which have a significant impact both in terms of lives and healthcare costs. A possible co-infection with influenza and COVID-19 could carry even higher risks.
For this reason, we need neutralising antibodies that can target any new flu variants that might escape current vaccines’ protection. As opposed to a vaccine, these would constitute a therapeutic option for patients who are already infected. Designing a neutralising antibody targeting this the H3N2 influenza virus variant could offer enormous therapeutic potential.
How does influenza work?
The flu virus targets the cells in your respiratory system, like your nose, throat and lungs. The virus uses a special protein called haemagglutinin (HA) to attach to those specialised respiratory cells. Once it gets inside, it hijacks those cells to start making copies of itself.
Antibodies that bind to the head domain of HA typically have potent neutralising activity for the virus; hence we will focus on designing a good binding scorer for the receptor bind domain (RBD) of the HA protein head.
About InstaDeep (instadeep.com)
InstaDeep delivers AI-powered decision-making systems for the Enterprise. With expertise in both machine intelligence research and concrete business deployments, we provide a competitive advantage to our customers in an AI-first world. As one of the leading AI companies in Africa, InstaDeep knows first-hand what African talent is truly capable of.
InstaDeep has more than 120 employees spread across its headquarters in London, and offices in Paris, Tunis, Dubai, Lagos and Cape Town. In addition to its connections to African educational institutions, the company also possesses strong ties to elite French schools and top rated universities in the UK. To apply: instadeep.bamboohr.com/jobs and firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Microsoft (microsoft.com)
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Microsoft has operated in Africa for more than 25 years. In that time they have built strong partnerships across the continent, helped bridge gaps in infrastructure, connectivity and capability, and are working to empower countries in Africa to digitally transform while creating sustained societal impact. Earlier this year, Microsoft opened Africa’s first hyper-scale data centers in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. Most recently, the company also announced the opening of two Africa Development Centers in Nairobi and Lagos, where world class African talent can create innovative solutions for local and global impact.
About Standard Bank (standardbank.com)
Standard Bank Group is a financial institution that offers banking and financial services to individuals, businesses, institutions and corporations in Africa and abroad. All Standard Bank products and services are based on a set of values that uphold the empowerment of their customers. Both internally, and in daily engagement with their clients we foster transparency, innovation, accountability and superior service.