Berklee, MilliporeSigma, Hacking Medicine Institute to Host Hackathon

By 
Tori Donahue
March 8, 2019
Press release
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Joy Allen, chair of Berklee's Music Therapy Department and acting director for the Berklee Music and Health Institute
Image by Mike Spencer

The Berklee Music and Health Institute is partnering with leading life science company MilliporeSigma, and the Hacking Medicine Institute, a nonprofit organization affiliated with MIT Hacking Medicine, to host the first hackathon of its kind. The Music and Health Innovation Challenge will take place April 6–7, at District Hall in Boston’s Seaport District. An opening reception will be held at the Venture Café at Cambridge Innovation Center on April 5. 

“The relationship between music, science, technology, and health is becoming increasingly complex, and we must take a collective approach to best assist with issues facing our local and global communities,” said Joy Allen, chair of Berklee’s Music Therapy Department and acting director for the Berklee Music and Health Institute. “In collaboration with our partners, we hope to combine our resources and skill sets to further understand music’s power and place in modern healthcare, and the Music and Health Innovation Challenge serves as a perfect first step for finding innovative solutions.”

Using the Hacking Medicine Institute’s proven model, integrated hacker teams from healthcare fields, technology, and the arts will collaborate on solution-driven proposals in response to how music, when paired with data analytics, AI, wearable devices, augmented reality, and other technology, can address health challenges. Participants will pitch, plan, and prototype solutions in five challenge areas, including:

  • the treatment of chronic pain;
  • regular movement and mobility for those living with physical ailments;
  • creating safe spaces for patients with dementia;
  • identifying and addressing symptoms of increased stress; and
  • how biosensors measure the physiological benefits of music-based experiences.

The top five teams will be awarded an incubation contract for up to five months with a team of professional mentors and a $5,000 seed grant. A final pitch competition will take place during Boston’s fourth annual HUBweek, resulting in additional prize awards of up to $25,000 per team.

“Science and technology today offer us new tools to evaluate the potential health outcomes of music in a clinical setting,” said MilliporeSigma CEO Udit Batra. “New England’s vibrant community of innovators has the potential to bring intriguing breakthroughs forward on this topic.”

During the final proposal phase, the Hacking Medicine Institute will assist the teams from research to commercialization, developing connections to potential investors and companies. The fundamental goal of the hackathon will be to bring novel, effective, and accessible music-based technological solutions to situations that could ultimately transform health and wellbeing in the future.

“We’re delighted to partner with Berklee’s Music and Health Institute for this initiative, and our organizations have a common passion for creativity and collaboration,” said Laura Duerksen, executive director of the Hacking Medicine Institute. “We are excited to implement the HMI model for early-stage idea development and startup acceleration in an ecosystem of music, health, and interdisciplinary cross-pollination.”

The effects of music therapy have been researched and analyzed in patients spanning a wide array of physical and mental health conditions. In September 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in partnership with the Kennedy Center and the American Music Therapy Association, issued a series of applications calling for additional research into the connections between music and health. The NIH previously developed its Sound Health program with the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Endowment for the Arts to expand upon existing research, explore and identify new music therapy initiatives, and raise public awareness for how music impacts health and wellness.

The Hacking Medicine Institute has conducted more than 300 hackathons on topics ranging from dermatology to pediatrics. Support for the Music and Health Innovation Challenge is provided by MilliporeSigma, a leading, global life science company, with additional support provided by the Barr Foundation. 

To learn more about the hackathon or apply, visit berklee.edu/music-health-innovation or watch the video below: