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Iron Hack - A symposium/hackathon focused on porphyrias, Friedreich's ataxia, and other rare iron-related diseases

Hackathons are an effective avenue for the generation of software prototypes in the biomedical informatics space. A long-standing interest and active research programs on rare diseases, including Friedreich’s ataxia and porphyrias at the University of South Florida (USF), prompted the proposal of a modified version of the National Center for Biotechnology Information's (NCBI) Hackathon-model to take full advantage of local expertise in building "Iron Hack", a rare disease-focused hackathon. Organizers facilitated a symposium on rare iron-related diseases, specifically porphyrias and Friedreich's ataxia, pitched at general audiences. The hackathon was structured to begin each day with presentations by expert clinicians, genetic counselors, researchers focused on molecular and cellular biology, public health/global health, genetics/genomics, computational biology, bioinformatics, biomolecular science, bioengineering, and computer science, as well as guest speakers from the American Porphyria Foundation (APF) and Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) to inform participants as to the human impact of these diseases. As a result of this hackathon, resources were developed that are relevant not only to these specific disease-models, but also to other rare diseases and general bioinformatics problems. Within two and a half days, "Iron Hack" participants successfully built collaborative projects to visualize data, build databases, improve rare disease diagnosis, and study rare-disease inheritance. The purpose of this manuscript is to demonstrate the utility of a hackathon model to generate prototypes of generalizable tools for a given disease and train clinicians and data scientists to interact more effectively.

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