Project raising funds to develop HIV vaccine; plans to release to the public for free


The non-profit organization The Immunity Project is looking to release the first ever synthetic HIV vaccine to the general public, for free—but must first raise $482,000 for their final experiment, using human blood, before the Phase I Clinical Trials can begin.

The Immunity Project’s vaccine was created through the discovery that some people are naturally immune to HIV. Those born with this natural immunity have been coined as “HIV controllers,” and through “applied machine learning” the company was able to produce a vaccine which mimics the immunity which HIV controllers are naturally born with.

On January 23, The Immunity Project launched their crowdfunding campaign; in order to take the vaccine to the next level—testing it on human blood—they must raise $482,000 in the next month.

If they reach their fundraising goal, they will be able to complete trial testing on human blood and then move onto Phase 1: human clinical trials with the FDA. Assuming all goes as planned, Immunity’s ultimate goal is make this vaccine available to the entire world for free.

Though treatable, AIDS is still ultimately fatal, causing approximately 5,000 deaths a day. If Immunity is able to reach their goal they could solve a global epidemic which has been raging on for decades.

Although Immunity is not the only company to discover a potential vaccine for HIV, their vaccine stands out as likely to be successful for its unique design and safety factors. For one, through the technology of applied machine learning the team was able to reverse-engineer the natural process which is found in HIV controllers—meaning that their vaccine doesn’t use live or killed viruses, which is the case for most other competitor vaccines. In addition, Immunity’s vaccine does not require refrigeration and it is distributed through a nasal inhaler—making it more user-friendly and easier for global distribution.

Harvard Professor of Medicine Dr. Bruce Walker and Microsoft e-Science Researcher Dr. David Heckerman, along with Flow Pharma founder Dr. Reid Rubsamen, are the originators of the vaccine. The Immunity Project has become a part of Silicon Valley’s Winter 2014 Y Combinator class; partner Sam Altman, called the project “the kind of crazy idea we like.”

“Imagine a world where vaccines are developed for a tiny fraction of the big pharma cost and given away for free to everyone who needs them,” Altman said. “We thought that work done by Microsoft Research that underlies this was really interesting, and we’re always interested in areas where software can change how things are done. Technology means doing more with less; this is an extreme example. I spent a fair amount of time with this group during their application process and am personally donating both money and blood.”

The fundraising page can be found here.


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