menu

Steve Clayton: Fighting Email Spam Is Helping Search For HIV Vaccine

Steve Clayton: Fighting Email Spam Is Helping Search For HIV Vaccine
technology

A new Microsoft tool that was initially developed to be a complex email spam filter is now being used to further AIDS research with its data mining algorithm being used to do specific cell analysis that helps detail virus patterns.

Steve Clayton, Microsoft
  • 1 december 2011

Helping tackle some of the most urgent global challenges is firmly on the agenda for Microsoft Research (MSR) – applying our experience, our depth and breadth of expertise, our partnerships and the power of software to tackle these challenges. In the case of searching for a vaccine for HIV, all of this comes in to play as we’re applying high-powered computation, fighting HIV with data and perhaps surprisingly, using our experience of building email spam filters to find a solution.

More than 1.8 million people die of HIV-related causes each year — approximately 5,000 deaths per day. One of the great challenges in fighting HIV is that the virus is constantly mutating to avoid attack by the immune system — so much so that it can change as much within one infected person as the influenza virus has throughout recorded history. This makes it incredibly difficult to accurately analyze the virus and develop therapies that attack its elusive weak points. Each mutation means another variable to identify and understand. To complicate things even more, individual immune response varies greatly; some people’s immune systems are able to robustly combat the virus, allowing them to live for years without treatment, while others become sick more quickly as their bodies fail to resist the invasive attack.

As with many MSR projects, this work is being undertaken in partnership with several other experts in the field. Testing of a vaccine in Durban, South Africa is being led by Bruce Walker, at the Ragon Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, and a professor of medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. They are joined by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV. This testing program generates vast quantities of data, the analysis of which presents a huge hurdle.

That’s where David Heckerman and Jonathan Carlson of Microsoft Research along with a Microsoft Computational Biology Tool called PhyloD come in. This software enables efficient data mining which then leads to specific cell analysis that helps detail virus patterns for further analysis. PhyloD contains an algorithm, code and visualization tools to perform complex pattern recognition and analysis – enabling Heckerman and his colleagues to learn how different individual immune systems respond to the many mutations of the virus.

Ordinarily the computing power required to process the number of variables and possible correlations would take years, but combining the PhyloD tool with Microsoft’s high-performance computing center, this work can be done in hours. Working with two groups, one led by Christian Brander in Barcelona, and another led by Paul Goepfert at the University of Alabama, Heckerman and his team have discovered roughly six times as many possible attack points on the HIV virus as had been previously identified.

When we first met Bruce, he had a very tricky problem to analyze. He had this great data set but he didn’t know how to analyze it. We happened to have just the right algorithm for it and this large bank of computers at Microsoft that could do this massive amount of computation. He gave us the problem on Friday. On Monday, we had a completed analysis for him.

What I personally find most fascinating about this work is that it builds on previous work Heckerman undertook to build an email spam filter. The same principles that are being used to fight spam in Hotmail, Outlook and Exchange are being used to tackle HIV. It turns out there are a lot of similarities between the way spammers evolve their approaches to avoid filters and the way that the HIV virus is constantly mutating.

Continue reading here.

Originally posted on Next at Microsoft.

technology
Trending

Brand Engagement At The Gates Of The World's Largest Open-Air Gallery

Culture
Asia Today

Safe Drivers Rewarded In Japan With Free Coffee

Driving Barista is a new app that encourages Japanese motorists to put their phones down as they drive

Arts & Culture Today

Michael Kors Has Designed Their Own Instant Camera

In a partnership with Fuji, the limited edition Instax Mini 70 comes in an exclusive metallic gold color

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Health Today

Manage Your Emotional Health Through Your Phone

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has created a new iOS app meant to help patients track mental progress and set goals

Food Today

Delete Food Pics Off Of Instagram To Feed The Hungry

Land O'Lakes and Feeding America are donating meals for every picture of a meal taken off of the social platform

Related Expert

Tara Greer

Digital Strategy

Design & Architecture Today

This Shape-Shifting Pod Could Be The Future Of The Cubicle

MIT and Google have designed a new form of work enclosure meant to offer privacy in open-office layouts

Advertising Today

Billboard Spies On People As They Walk By

To promote the movie "Snowden," the advertisement broadcasts information on passersby without their knowledge

Fashion Today

Anti-Pollution Scarf Helps Cyclists Ride Through Cities

An innovative system filters pollutants and its accompanying app monitors quality of the air

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs Today

New Mentorship Ecosystems Benefit All Levels Of An Organization

PSFK’s Future of Work report explores how technology is being leveraged to support cross-team communication

Automotive Today

Volvo’s Self-Driving Trucks Will Soon Be Put To Work In An Underground Mine

The fully-automated vehicles are part of a development project to help improve safety for workers

Op-Ed Today

Energy Expert: How American Consumers Are Taking Control Of Their Power Use

Jennifer Tuohy, green tech expert at The Home Depot, discusses green home technologies and developments for renewable technologies in US homes

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: How Will Companies Staff The Workplace Of The Future?

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX examine the ways that a people-first workplace might disrupt the job hiring process

Arts & Culture Today

Mischievous Drone Will Drop Paint-Filled Balloons On Targets Of Your Choosing

A German photography team developed the flying device to accurately deliver a payload wherever needed

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Fashion Today

100 Backpacks Made For The World’s Top Influencers

Heineken and TUMI have collaborated on a unique custom NYC-inspired bag

Financial Services Today

This Peer-To-Peer Insurance Company Is Powered By Bots

Lemonade is a new product designed to lighten the paperwork and provide instant, helpful service when needed

No search results found.