COVID-19 OpenVaccine Competition Success for Michele Tinti

Published on 10 December 2020

Michele Tinti, a postdoctoral researcher in Mike Ferguson’s lab, has competed on the international stage to search for a stable mRNA sequence in order to create a stable COVID-19 vaccine.

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As we have seen with the current Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine that is being rolled out across the UK, it is quite unstable and requires refrigeration at -70 degrees Celsius to prevent degradation. Researchers from Stanford University in the United States have also been studying mRNA vaccines as they could quickly provide a solution to the current COVID-19 pandemic. In order to find a stable mRNA sequence, the people from Stanford University reached out to the Kaggle community in September for help.

Kaggle is the world's largest data science community with powerful tools and resources to help people achieve their data science goals.

The OpenVaccine: COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Degradation Prediction competition launched on 11 September and lasted for only 26 days due to its urgency. There was a prize-pool of $25,000 for the top three competitors.

Michele teamed up with Gilles Vandewiele and Bram Steenwinckel, PhD students from Department of Information Technology (INTEC) of the University of Ghent, and achieved fourth place out of 1,636 teams.

Michele said, “Even if our team missed out on the top prizes, we are still very proud of our result! With this competition, I also become Kaggle Competition Masters. A big thanks to my wife that continually supported me during the weekend and overnight work!”

Read the technical details about their work in Gilles’ Blog Post on towards data science.