NEW YORK, Nov. 30 - Co-hosting the first-ever international "biohackathon" is a key component of Cape Town, South Africa-based Electric Genetics strategy to support the launch of a new suite of open source bioinformatics tools, according to a company spokeswoman.
Christina Raimondo, business development director at Electric Genetics, said that bolstering the company's already strong relationship with the open source bioinformatics community would be critical to the company's future success. Thus, the aim of the hackathon, which the company is co-producing with IT publisher O'Reilly and Associates, will be to "create an atmosphere where the developers have time to focus on interoperability — melting ideas and technical expertise to produce a result larger the sum of their individual efforts," she said.
The event will take place in two parts: The first will precede the O'Reilly Open Source Bioinformatics Conference in Tucson, Ariz., January 26-28, 2002, and the second will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, February 24 - March 1, 2002.
The hackathon sponsors are covering all travel and accommodation costs for 15-20 lead developers in each of the various open-bio projects. These include language projects such as BioPerl, BioJava, and BioCorba as well as applications and tools such as Ensembl, the Emboss package, Gene Ontology, OmniGene and the NCBI Toolkit. Developers from industry are welcome as well, but must pay their own way.
Ewan Birney of the European Bioinformatics Institute is slated to head up the technical direction of the event. While the technical details are still under discussion on the hackathon mailing list (available at www.sanbi.ac.za/mailman/listinfo/biohackathon ), the core objective is to improve interoperability between the various established open source bioinformatics projects, he said.
Birney said that the hackathon would be the first chance for the open-bio community "to get together in the same room with nothing but computers there." He added that there is a great deal of usage of the open-bio projects within industry and that he's confident that other organizations in addition to Electric Genetics and O'Reilly will recognize the benefits of supporting the all-volunteer effort.
While admitting that the challenges of commercializing open source software are formidable, Raimondo noted that there are inherent risks involved in any software launch. "It's never a sure bet," she said, but hosting the hackathon is a sure way of "keeping a finger on the pulse of the market while actively supporting open source initiatives."
Companies interested in supporting the hackathon should contact [email protected] .