I'll be equally vocal in support now. Watsi was the first sign of light, Immunity Project the second. This is what needs support, what needs money and hype. Realistically it won't get as much money as it needs, but with someone like YC pushing nonprofits like this, it's a huge step in the right direction. I can't wait to see the other nonprofits.
I know I sound like a bitter communist (is there any other kind?), but this really feels like an island of reason in the bubbly ocean of SF. Good luck to this batch.
Really cool to see yc taking things in this direction.
I think YC is one of the few places that could actually disrupt the academic publishing and reputation-bargaining field so I'm hoping some nonprofit will tackle this eventually.
Incidentally, Scribd started out as a way to disrupt academic publishing. To do it they wrote a lot of stuff for handling PDFs, and as often happens in startups that became the tail that wagged the dog.
Sometimes thinking out of the box and letting go of established ways will lead to results.
Also in computer sciences we use differentiating between two known states to find out how to change on state to the other one perfectly. In immunology do you use similar approaches?
Also good luck! I'm chipping in now. I'm relaunching my own crowd-funded nonprofit research in the biomedical space (and will be partnering with crowdhoster/crowdtilt)... I'm magnifying your message. When the dust settles a little bit I'd love to be in touch with you guys.
On the other hand, this could be YC's foot in the door to disrupt the high margin, high investment, treatment over cure model of the health industry, in which case more power to them. We can expect to see YC spinning off a health division. That seems like quite the challenge - hope they know what they are getting themselves into.
We do need more altruism in the health research market that will bring unpatentable cures to market instead of expensive long term treatments.
Anyone know how much YC is contributing and what they get in exchange? Some kind of ownership of the company?
Do people taking part in the $482,000 fund raiser get ownership of the company?
Why doesn't YC just donate money as part of the fund raiser?
Looks like easy PR and Goodwill for YC. Reminds me of all the big banks who take out full-page ads every Christmas and send out press releases touting how they're helping society by taking part in a Christmas fund raiser.
Also, where's the science? Having something in the FAQ that states "We're awaiting publication in a peer-reviewed journal" is, to be blunt, pretty lame. Is the data and research open access? If not, why not?
Not to mention, there are some journals that will publish pre-printed data. Here's a partial list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_journals_by_pr...) although take that list with a grain of salt because the pre-print policies may only really apply to math/physics publications.
IF you succeed (and I hope you will).. just think how AWESOME would it be that the authors of one of the most significant achievements of the 21st century boicoted those greedy journals.
You'll probably win a Nobel prize if you succeed, why care about a journal publication?!
Presumably because getting published opens up large number of potential funding sources that would otherwise ignore them.
In some other areas, the journals have more strictly policies, and don’t like preprints, reprints, free author pdf copies, ...
I’d really like to see a peer-review article, even if that means waiting to see the research data. There is a lot of bullshit inside per-review articles, but there is even more bullshit outside per-review articles. A per-review is not a guaranty that the article is correct, but at least it guaranty that some expert in that area had read the article and had no found any major fault.
One paper that's not even in press yet isn't going to set off any fireworks in a grant review committee, especially with funding as tight as it is right now.
Is the growth plan to raise the money from large donors (Gates foundation, Wellcome Trust, etc.) or to licence the technology to more traditional pharma firms ?
It would seem difficult to raise that kind of money from other than big pharma or typical pharma capital market sources who would want to see a large pay-off from such an risky investment (i.e. selling it in countries which could afford it).
Best of luck in any case!
How does the vaccine train your immune system? My (very limited) understanding of vaccines is that you would normally train the immune system to target these weak spots by creating an antibody that would bind to said weak spot. But from elsewhere on the page, it says that the project isn't working on an antibody approach. What am I missing?
The advantage of using microspheres is that the vaccine is now monumentally safer than previous gene therapy or other vaccine attempts.
These cells begin to divide faster, and the children code for and generate the same antibody as the parent. This ups the amount of cells with that particular antibody, increasing the probability that the antigen will be targeted. They trigger inflammation to increase the flow of blood, letting more immune cells per second pass through scan the area (probably not helpful for aids, but for a cut, a splinter or a tumor that is fixed in place it is useful). They also release freestanding antibodies with the same binding profile that can disable viruses and trigger other immune cells to come slurp them up.
I think when they say they aren't taking an antibody approach they mean they aren't making an artificial antibody and just injecting it for passive immunity (sort of like injecting an immune system that can't do its own adaptation and upregulation)
The main thing with vaccines I am still confused about is what the difference between them and allergy shots is, and how do the two end up with opposite effects? I guess there is somehow a different reaction to a spike of something vs a repeated presence.
(Edit: never mind.. microspheres.. who knew?)
Those and just random magazine articles, etc. are really the only two things read/watched though, so others may know of some better options.
But, maybe I'm the odd guy, here. At a higher level, does it bother anyone else even slightly that more and more of the world's priorities are being set by fewer and fewer people? This is how it's been to some extent for millennia. But, with increasing income/wealth disparity in the world, its effect is amplified.
This, of course, is a terrible example because I'm sure most can agree that attempting to cure such a devastating disease is worthy of funding. This is also not to disparage wealthy individuals (indeed, many would include me in the bunch).
It just seems that very little sees the light of day unless an increasingly small group of people deem it so worthy. And, something about seeing the priorities of even our non-profits dictated by these few gives me pause. Yes, I know that philanthropy, foundations, etc. have always existed but, again, the rate of increase of absolute power and control accreting back to so few people like the days of yore seems inconsistent with freedom, democracy, and all the other good stuff so many have come to idealize for good reason.
It's because, to be honest, majority of humans just doesn't give a crap about anything that's further than 10cm from the end of their noses. The opposite of world priorities being set by fewer and fewer people is not lots of good things happening, it's nothing of importance ever happening. Want a proof? Just look at internal politics of every democratic state. Tons of resources get wasted, and nothing ever gets done, because people just can't agree on anything.
Well, it's all good until it isn't. If the priorities of a few people impact so many (including you) and you no longer agree with them, then what do you do?
>I hope to be the part of this small group at some point.
I think it's actually a shame that you'd need to be a part of the "small group" in order to have a voice. Ideally, we'd all have at least the capacity to participate in our world without first requiring the blessing of a handful of gatekeepers.
And, the irony is that's the thing: It's actually harder for you to make it into the small group sans the blessing of the few who are in it. For instance, where is the real democratizing effect of the Net? For a recent, specific example, look at Bitcoin. What was once a libertarian's dream has already been co-opted by the same VCs and interests such that they will now provide the services and "real infrastructure" to grow wealthy from what was once considered an almost subversive concept. Business as usual.
>majority of humans just doesn't give a crap about anything that's further than 10cm from the end of their noses
That's true, but I think that's due to the quite purposeful orientation of our society towards mass distraction, which seems to be part of an apparent desire to limit critical thought. Witness the U.S. education system which emphasizes rote-memorization and the creation of "cogs for the machine". I actually think it's endemic to the wealth/income polarization problem. That is, such a societal structure that seeks to create a consumer class that serves as mere unthinking cogs works to someone's benefit.
>Just look at internal politics of every democratic state
I'm not sure how many truly democratic states there are. The "shining example" (US) is controlled by a relative few people through special interests, insane campaign funding laws, and revolving-door civil-servants/lobbyists. Again, all of these examples point back to the very discomfort I have: the increasing concentration of power and wealth away from "the masses" into the hands of a few whose agenda and priorities shape our world.
You have a good point here, but...
> I think it's actually a shame that you'd need to be a part of the "small group" in order to have a voice.
> It's actually harder for you to make it into the small group sans the blessing of the few who are in it.
... but I don't think it works like that. The "small group" I'm talking about is not a group of special people, either born into it or allowed to join. I'm thinking about a subset of humanity that actually gives a damn, and works towards a change. It seems that the entry exam for joining this "small group" is just getting out and doing anything - starting a company, starting a movement, starting a research project, etc. Because most people don't do anything, you can join the minority by just trying to fix something.
Actually, it's the whole Snowdengate thing that got me thinking about this issue. There's a popular meme here that "the solution must be political in nature, not technological", a statement I strongly disagree with. I've come to realize that an effective solution will have to be technological in nature, because politics means lots of talking that never gets you anywhere, while a simple technological solution can simply shift the problem landscape under people's feet. You don't have to ask anyone; you deploy, and they'll have to cope. It's exactly the kind of thinking you're worried about, but I can't really see any alternative.
You see, the world is full of short-sighted, uncaring, or sometimes outright stupid people who, if given the chance, will burn this planet down to the ground thanks to their sheer incompetence. I would love them to have the freedom and the equal influence over the world's priorities, but I also don't want my future kids to die a painful death because of a combination of stupidity and democracy.
Yeah, I think we're talking about two different groups. The group I'm talking about is specifically those with capital/wealth--in part, the "investor class" if you will. This group does materially dictate the world's various agendas/priorities.
OTOH, I would say that you're already a member of "your group" (i.e. the group that gives a damn), just by virtue of the fact that you seem to give a damn. So, when you mentioned that you hoped to join the "small group" at some point, I took that as an acknowledgment of my position: that is, giving a damn and having your own priorities is not enough, without the capital/access to actually do something.
>There's a popular meme here that "the solution must be political in nature, not technological"
I'd say legal in nature, not technological. And, that's purely a practical matter. That is, it's not that I'm overjoyed about the state of our legal system. It's more that I don't think it's practical to play technological cat-and-mouse with our own government and expect to win. So, IMO, if we don't at least attempt to constrain the government legally, then we've lost hope.
But, I digress. To your bigger point, yes, seeking legal redress does have political implications. And there's no doubt that we need to fix our politics, but again, I think the problems are one and the same: the few moneyed interests I mentioned dictate our agenda, in part through our politics. So, while our politics appear to be broken due to sheer incompetence, they actually are not. They simply serve an agenda that is not "for the people", while attempting to maintain the facade that they are.
>...will burn this planet down to the ground. I would love them to have the freedom and the equal influence over the world's priorities, but I also don't want my future kids to die a painful death because of a combination of stupidity and democracy.
Well said and I agree to some extent. Beyond mere politics though, I'm lamenting the access to power to all but a few. That is to say, there are certainly also many thoughtful, caring people in the world whose ideas/actions could help to shape it and make it a better place for all. In other words, it's not simply a world of a few moneyed people who know what's best for everyone on one side vs. a slew of completely ignorant, incompetent, malicious dullards on the other. There are many in the middle whose priorities also deserve the light of day. I would imagine that you and I, as well as many others who post here fall somewhere on that spectrum.
Is there a chance that HIV won't be controlled even if we can induce the immune system to be capable of targeting some of the peptide sequences that controllers often target? (i.e., might there be something else at work in controllers?)
Thanks for working on an important project!
It looks like there might be differences between controller immune systems and regular ones that don't have to do with choice of epitope:
Does this make it less likely that targeting specific epitopes is all there is to the picture? (I'm happy to assume that we'll get an immune response with memory in humans -- the question is, how confident should we be that that response will control HIV?)
So one question: This "targetting capability" that HIV controllers have, which your goals is to give it to all of us, does it also have any other benefits? Does it also help protect us from other viruses?
The "targetting capability", definitely does have implications for other types of viruses. While this vaccine focuses on giving the power of HIV controllers to everybody, other controllers do exist. For example, there may be controllers for other viruses like Hepatitis, HPV, Herpes, or even things like other viruses that cause cancer.
First of all - Flow Pharma is the inventor of the vsaccine - they are a FOR PROFIT angel backed company. Why do they need crowdfunding?
Second - How does Immunity project work? It seems that the real non-profit is "Until there is a cure". So you are donating money to them, which then give the money to the immunity project which pays for a trial of an unproven drug for a FOR prfit company.
This is a fantastic project and I promise I will donate if you have full disclosure. thank you for doing this.
* Why does Flow Pharma need crowdfunding when they are FOR PROFIT?
* How can you guarantee FREE vaccines for everyone for only $500k?
* What will the crowd founding be spent on and will there be follow on investing needed?
* What is the future of Immunity Project? Have you begun your application to be your own official non-profit?
EDIT: I seem that someone else answered a part "Dr. Reid Rubsamen, developed the vaccine is part of the Immunity Project", but does not explain the exact relationship with Flow Pharma?
Presumably, the same as the other HIV vaccines that are in trials.
> Are there people who volunteer to get infected with HIV?
There are people who volunteer for vaccine trials. They don't need to volunteer to get infected with HIV -- basically, you get a large enough experimental and control group, study risk factors in the groups, and track infection rates, and evaluate whether, based on that, the vaccine reduces infection rates.
It seems like believing you are vaccinated would increase risky behaviour. This is bad in itself. It is also bad if the vaccine is only partially effective, since the risk effect might balance the vaccine effect.
With a placebo, knowing you only have a 50/50 chance of getting the actual trial vaccine might also help mitigate the risk effect.
Anyway, just wondering how all this works. Finding an effective vaccine would be fantastic; keep up the good work!
But this will also be true of the vaccine as employed in reality, and thus a useful piece of information to capture.
Seen through that lens, it's straightforward to see how enabling people to come up with innovative and effective new charities that startup investors can help fund is a worthwhile project.
"Since some people were confused when we funded Watsi, I'd better clarify that the money we're putting into the nonprofits will be a charitable donation, rather than an investment in the narrow sense. We won't have any financial interest in them."
I'm not an investor and this isn't tax advice!
Charitable donations do often result in reduced taxes. The catch is that the reduction in taxes is less than the donation (and at least in the U.S., there is no combination of State and Federal taxes that is greater than 100% of income...).
In terms of independently curing AIDS, although the vaccine has therapeutic potential, it mostly likely applies only to those particular individuals living with HIV who have normal immune systems – i.e. those successfully managed on HAART medications. The vaccine may prevent AIDS, but it will not cure AIDS.
Actually, what I really want to see it a focus on stopping poaching, whaling, habitat destruction and ocean acidification. Even with all the disease, humans don't seem to have issues reproducing. Extending the human population, especially those of developing countries, only leads to more of the above. One day our children are going to say - "Cool, no more HIV, but what's a rainforest? what's a Rhinoceros? why can't we eat fish." Just saying.
"It may be counterintuitive, but the countries with the most deaths have among the fastest-growing populations in the world. This is because the women in these countries tend to have the most births, too.
This pattern of falling death rates followed by falling birth rates applies for the vast majority of the world. Demographers have written a lot about this phenomenon. The French were the first to start this transition, toward the end of the 18th century. In France, average family size went down every decade for 150 years in a row. In Germany, women started having fewer children in the 1880s, and in just 50 years family size had mostly stabilized again. In Southeast Asia and Latin America, average fertility dropped from six or seven children per woman to two or three in a single generation, thanks in large measure to the modern contraceptives available by the 1960s.
Because most countries—with exceptions in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—have now gone through this transition, the global population is growing more slowly every year. As Hans Rosling, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and one of my favorite data geeks, said, “The amount of children in the world today is probably the most there will be! We are entering into the age of the Peak Child!”"
Saving lives will improve humanity and -- as humanity has discovered -- actually contributes to fewer births. This is one of the reasons we see shrinking populations in 25 nations including Japan, Ukraine, Italy, Greece. 
The reality is that saving lives counterintuitively decreases population through lower birth rates, which may ultimately help the earth.
Also, observe that the world is at its highest population today, and yet, billions of humans are totally resource-secure. Why this counter-intuitive phenomenon? It's largely thanks to technological advancements in farming and genetics. There is no reason to believe this trend will not continue.
Gates' post shows that saving lives actually helps overpopulation, historically. And through technological advances, we are more resource rich than we ever have been. That you're sitting there in a comfy, heated office with all the food, money, and resources you ever will need is evidence of this. Better yet, the same resource richness you now enjoy is spreading around the world .
Natural resources: if you mean things like oil, well, that is a resource only humans need to use; our using that resource isn't a bad thing in itself. Yes, it has some negative side effects, and yes, it will eventually run out. But when it does, we'll move on through more technology.
The "world is doomed because of too many humans" thinking is terribly shortsighted because it assumes humans will never increase resources, solve diseases, and never populate other planets. Those assumptions are increasingly shown to unlikely, if not foolish.