Finastra introduces UAE students to the world of coding

Finastra’s Hour of Code program was delivered to pupils from Dubai International Academy Emirates Hill in December 2019.
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Updated 19 January 2020

Finastra introduces UAE students to the world of coding

For the second year since the inception of its corporate social responsibility program, Finastra in collaboration with Code.org, teamed up with Innoventures Education and two local schools to introduce young minds to the world of coding and computer science. The initiative is part of Finastra’s long-term commitment to delivering computer science skills to children and young people in the rapidly advancing digital Middle East. 

The Hour of Code initiative is designed to demystify code and broaden participation in the field of computer science. During a week-long event, Finastra hosted more than 580 students from Dubai International Academy (DIA) Emirates Hills and Dubai International Academy Al-Barsha. The children had the opportunity to design and execute commands within a gaming environment such as Star Wars or Flappy Bird. Younger children, between seven and nine years of age, used “blocks” of code in a drag-and-drop environment, while older children learned to write code in JavaScript.

According to the World Economic Forum’s report on “Future of Jobs and Skills,” 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that do not yet exist. Participation in the program allows Finastra to help further expand the movement globally and to introduce computer science to a wider audience, encouraging more girls and under-represented minorities to get involved.

Serge Tohme, managing director, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Finastra, said: “Through the Hour of Code initiative, we want to introduce innovation in the old silos of education systems, demonstrate the power of coding and show the younger generations new career avenues. The initiative is a great way to reach young people from all backgrounds, to make them more aware of the potential of computer science, open their eyes to new career opportunities and spark their interest in learning more.”

Candice Combrinck, head of primary, Dubai International Academy Al-Barsha, said: “It’s the second year that our children have taken part in the Hour of Code initiative and it’s been as big a success as the first. The program is helping raise our students’ aspirations and shown them what opportunities there are for coders. We believe it is very important to forge links between schools and the workplace even for young pupils so that they are encouraged to link their educational experiences with the real world.”


J-Clinic study identifies powerful new drug

Updated 26 February 2020

J-Clinic study identifies powerful new drug

A powerful new antibiotic compound has been identified by researchers at MIT using a machine-learning algorithm. The drug killed many of the world’s most problematic disease-causing bacteria in laboratory tests, including some strains that are resistant to all known antibiotics. It also cleared infections in two different mouse models.

The computer model, which can screen more than a 100 million chemical compounds in a matter of days, is designed to pick out potential antibiotics that kill bacteria using different mechanisms than those of existing drugs. 

Regina Barzilay and James Collins, who are faculty co-leads for MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (J-Clinic), are the senior authors of the study, which appears in Cell. The first author of the paper is Jonathan Stokes, a post-doc at MIT and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

J-Clinic is a key part of the MIT Quest for Intelligence and focuses on developing machine-learning technologies to revolutionize the prevention, detection, and treatment of disease.

In their new study, the researchers also identified several other promising antibiotic candidates, which they plan to test further. They believe the model could also be used to design new drugs, based on what it has learned about chemical structures that enable drugs to kill bacteria.

“The machine-learning model can explore, in silico, large chemical spaces that can be prohibitively expensive for traditional experimental approaches,” said Barzilay, the Delta Electronics professor of electrical engineering and computer science in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

Over the past few decades, very few new antibiotics have been developed, and most of those newly approved antibiotics are slightly different variants of existing drugs. Current methods for screening new antibiotics are often prohibitively costly, require a significant time investment, and are usually limited to a narrow spectrum of chemical diversity.

“We’re facing a growing crisis around antibiotic resistance, and this situation is being generated by both an increasing number of pathogens becoming resistant to existing antibiotics, and an anemic pipeline in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries for new antibiotics,” Collins said.

“The world is in desperate need of new antibiotics to combat dangerous diseases, so it is hugely encouraging that the team at J-Clinic at MIT, has helped make a breakthrough in finding a genuinely new one using machine learning,” said Fady Jameel, Community Jameel president, international. “For decades, Community Jameel has been committed to supporting research that can help improve people’s lives. Combatting the risk from antibiotic-resistant infections, like tuberculosis, could have a profound impact on us all.”

The research was funded and made possible by a number of supporters including the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health.