Jessica Sieff | November 20, 2019
Global health officials struggling to curb the spread of malaria continue to face the additional challenge of drug resistance — leaving scientists in search of new models for effective treatment and prevention.
In response to this problem, a team at the University of Notre Dame put out a call to the masses, enlisting researchers, data scientists and health professionals to analyze genomic data from emerging drug-resistant malaria parasites and gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of resistance.
Three hundred and sixty participants from 31 countries participated in the Malaria DREAM (Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessments and Methods) Challenge, a crowdsourcing effort challenging anyone in the world to develop computational models for predicting emerging drug resistance to artemisinin, a widely used therapeutic considered the “last line of defense” against multi-drug-resistant malaria.
This is the first DREAM challenge to address an infectious disease that predominantly affects the developing world.
“Crowdsourcing has a long history of developing new and improved solutions for big problems by posing those problems to communities around the world,” said Geoffrey Siwo, research assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Eck Institute for Global Health at Notre Dame, who led the challenge. “While the method has been used to address issues in cancer research, no DREAM Challenge had looked at issues related to infectious diseases like malaria. Malaria receives less funding than cancer, there are fewer technologies available to address the problem of infection and, now, drug resistance, and it can take nearly 10 years before new machine learning methods are applied to the disease.”
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