Over 35 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS, and 6,300 new people are infected everyday, but still Immunity Project is confident they can use data analysis and machine learning to develop a cure. The accelerator program Y Combinator would seem to agree, especially as the project was one of seven nonprofits to be accepted in their latest batch.
“This is the ultimate application of informatics to medicine,” cofounder and CEO Dr. Reid Rubsamen said in an interview. “So much vaccine design since 1953 has been based on neutralizing antibodies, but that legacy approach doesn’t work for HIV. The virus is too smart and can mutate so quickly. We are doing something very different.”
One out of every 300 people living with HIV is a “controller,” meaning they carry low levels of the virus in a dormant state that never turns into AIDS. The company hopes to use machine learning to understand how this happens and reverse engineer the process. Effectively, the vaccine would turn everyone infected with HIV into a controller.
Rubsamen also adds that unlike traditional treatments, you would only need to take Immunity once and that would be the end of it. It also has the potential to be used as a preventative method, with the company’s ultimate aim to make the vaccine completely free.
It would still be years before the vaccine is finalized, but Immunity Project is confident they can make quick progress. Part of this effort includes a crowdfunding campaign that was launched on Crowdhoster with the goal of raising $482,000. This money will help Immunity fund its final experiment using human blood before it begins the first phase of clinical trials.