Research Fellow @ Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Transfusion Medicine Fellow @ Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center


Forbes: How Covid-19 Changed MIT’s Global Hackathon Program And Others For The Better, Forever

Fobes – Michelle Greenwald – September 1, 2021

Engineers often state that constraints foster creativity, and the adage “necessity is the mother of invention” was never more true than after COVID-19 hit.  MIT’s healthcare hackathon program, pioneered by MIT Hacking Medicine, was forced to pivot quickly from 100% in person, to 100% virtual on a global level.  In the process, lessons were learned that can permanently improve hackathon processes in other sectors. 

Freddy Nguyen, Former Co-Director of MIT Hacking Medicine, a physician, scientist, bioengineer, physical chemist, and innovator, who works currently with both MIT and Mount Sinai, shared modifications and improvements to the program design and launch of the MIT COVID-19 Challenge in response to COVID constraints, many of which will endure.  Global hackathons across sectors can benefit from his team’s experiments and learnings.


Rapid crowdsourced innovation for COVID-19 response and economic growth

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected life worldwide. Governments have been faced with the formidable task of implementing public health measures, such as social distancing, quarantines, and lockdowns, while simultaneously supporting a sluggish economy and stimulating research and development (R&D) for the pandemic. Catalyzing bottom-up entrepreneurship is one method to achieve this. Home-grown efforts by citizens wishing to contribute their time and resources to help have sprouted organically, with ideas shared widely on the internet. We outline a framework for structured, crowdsourced innovation that facilitates collaboration to tackle real, contextualized problems. This is exemplified by a series of virtual hackathon events attracting over 9000 applicants from 142 countries and 49 states. A hackathon is an event that convenes diverse individuals to crowdsource solutions around a core set of predetermined challenges in a limited amount of time. A consortium of over 100 partners from across the healthcare spectrum and beyond defined challenges and supported teams after the event, resulting in the continuation of at least 25% of all teams post-event. Grassroots entrepreneurship can stimulate economic growth while contributing to broader R&D efforts to confront public health emergencies.


Transfusion reactions associated with COVID-19 convalescent plasma therapy for SARS-CoV-2

Background: Convalescent plasma (CP) for treatment of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2) has shown preliminary signs of effectiveness in moderate to severely ill patients in reducing mortality. While studies have demonstrated a low risk of serious adverse events, the comprehensive incidence and nature of the spectrum of transfusion reactions to CP is unknown. We retrospectively examined 427 adult inpatient CP transfusions to determine incidence and types of reactions, as well as clinical parameters and risk factors associated with transfusion reactions. Study Design and Methods: Retrospective analysis was performed for 427 transfusions to 215 adult patients with coronavirus 2019 (COVID‐19) within the Mount Sinai Health System, through the US Food and Drug Administration emergency investigational new drug and the Mayo Clinic Expanded Access Protocol to Convalescent Plasma approval pathways. Transfusions were blindly evaluated by two reviewers and adjudicated by a third reviewer in discordant cases. Patient demographics and clinical and laboratory parameters were compared and analyzed. Results: Fifty‐five reactions from 427 transfusions were identified (12.9% incidence), and 13 were attributed to transfusion (3.1% incidence). Reactions were classified as underlying COVID‐19 (76%), febrile nonhemolytic (10.9%), transfusion‐associated circulatory overload (9.1%), and allergic (1.8%) and hypotensive (1.8%) reactions. Statistical analysis identified increased transfusion reaction risk for ABO blood group B or Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores of 12 to 13, and decreased risk within the age group of 80 to 89 years. Conclusion: Our findings support the use of CP as a safe, therapeutic option from a transfusion reaction perspective, in the setting of COVID‐19. Further studies are needed to confirm the clinical significance of ABO group B, age, and predisposing disease severity in the incidence of transfusion reaction events.


Neutralizing Antibody Responses in COVID-19 Convalescent Sera

Passive transfer of antibodies from COVID-19 convalescent patients is being used as an experimental treatment for eligible patients with SARS-CoV-2 infections. The United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines for convalescent plasma initially recommended target antibody titers of 160. We evaluated SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in sera from recovered COVID-19 patients using plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNT) at moderate (PRNT50) and high (PRNT90) stringency thresholds. We found that neutralizing activity significantly increased with time post symptom onset (PSO), reaching a peak at 31–35 days PSO. At this point, the number of sera having neutralizing titers of at least 160 was approximately 93% (PRNT50) and approximately 54% (PRNT90). Sera with high SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels (>960 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay titers) showed maximal activity, but not all high-titer sera contained neutralizing antibody at FDA recommended levels, particularly at high stringency. These results underscore the value of serum characterization for neutralization activity.


AI LA Life Summit 2020 | Hackers Without Borders

Artificial Intelligence Los Angeles Community

Learn how socially-conscious technology organizations are galvanizing solutions for multi-faceted challenges facing humanity in a pandemic that has no borders.

Freddy Nguyen, MD, PhD – Co-Director of MIT COVID-19 Challenge
Artur Kiulian Founder,
Ben Treuhaft CO-CEO Helpful Engineering

Moderated by: Wen Dombrowski MD MBA, Cofounder Catalaize


MIT Virtual Alumni Leadership Conference: Mind, Hand, and Heart – MIT Alumni Stories of Inspiration

In a lightning talk format, alumni and postdocs from various MIT schools, departments, and class years will share personal stories of finding inspiration and taking action during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. Speakers will discuss topics that include MIT Hacking COVID, interdisciplinary research and design, producing and distributing PPEs, supporting nonprofits, and an ambitious project that aims to turn motorcycles into lifesaving devices.

Slice of MIT: Hundreds of Teams Converge Online for MIT Covid-19 Challenge Hackathons

Slice of MIT: Hundreds of Teams Converge Online for MIT Covid-19 Challenge Hackathons

Slice of MIT – Ken Shulman – September 23, 2020

It was early March 2020. The US and the world were bracing for the outbreak of a dangerous viral pandemic. Most members of the MIT community had left the campus and returned to their homes—many of them to homes abroad. For Alfonso Martinez MBA ’20 and Freddy T. Nguyen, the Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and a pathology resident at Mount Sinai Hospital, there was only one logical response: a hackathon.

“We had an impending pandemic that was going to create myriad problems across the globe,” says Nguyen, a co-organizer, along with Martinez, of the MIT Covid-19 Challenge. Since March, the MIT community-led initiative has staged seven hackathons addressing the pandemic. “We needed to define the problems facing us and create a structure that could produce solutions quickly. At the same time, we had hundreds of our people with mad skills confined to their homes with nowhere to apply those skills. From our perspective, a hackathon was a no-brainer.”

Physician-scientist with extensive experience developing and translating nanotechnologies and biomedical optical technologies from the bench to clinic in areas of genetics, oncology, and cardiovascular diseases. Extensive experience in community building in healthcare innovation, research, medical, and physician-scientist communities through various leadership roles.

Research Profiles