Giant hackathon seeks tech solutions to healthcare challenges in KSA

More than 1,000 young Saudi hackers compete in 10 different healthcare challenges

Organisers want to create at least 20 successful biotech startups.
Organisers want to create at least 20 successful biotech startups.

More than 1,000 young Saudi hackers - comprising clinicians, engineers, scientists, designers and entrepreneurs - participated at what the organisers have said is the world's largest health hackathon.

Organised by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) with support from Badir Program for Technology Incubators and Accelerators, and in collaboration with MIT Hacking Medicine, the three-day hackathon, titled "Reimagining Healthcare in Saudi Arabia", saw the hundreds of hackers compete in 10 different healthcare challenges to boost the design of biomedical technologies in KSA and help meet a target of creating over 20 biotech startups. The winners were announced at the end of the competition in Riyadh.

"Aligned with the Saudi Ministry of Health's Model of Care, the healthcare challenges, ranging from - blockchain and AI for health, cancer innovation track, and assistive technology and ageing - are aimed to energise and connect the best talents across the health ecosystem in the health and technology sectors to solve the healthcare’s biggest challenges and teach healthcare entrepreneurship and digital strategies to scale medicine in the Kingdom," said Dr. Anas Alfaris, vice president for research institutes at KACST during his opening speech at the hackathon .

Healthcare has been identified as one of the primary focus areas under the Saudi Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020 in order to enhance the quality of healthcare services and facilities in the country.

"It is our privilege to host the world's largest health hackathons in Saudi Arabia. The program will offer a collaborative environment for the best and brilliant minds to be a part of an exciting and inspiring event that will impact the way healthcare is delivered to millions of people in Saudi Arabia and across the globe," said Nawaf Al Sahhaf, chief executive officer of the Badir Program for Technology Incubators and Accelerators.

Winners included InTouch, an interactive mobile application with a treatment experience for Saudi Arabian patients with depression, which took the top prize in the Mental Health Hackathon track. Meanwhile, Med Chain, an application that uses blockchain and artificial intelligence systems to match patients with applicable clinical trials took top honours in the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence for Healthcare and Forensic Science track.

Since its inception in 2011, MIT Hacking Medicine has facilitated nearly 150 hackathons across over 30 countries. Teams coming out of these events have successfully joined local accelerators, raising over $175 million in investment funding, and partnering with healthcare institutions or companies towards piloting their solutions.

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