Controlling HIV, One Gyft at a Time

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While you’re shopping this coming month, you’re probably (and hopefully) not thinking about AIDS.

But the folks over at the Immunity Project (IP) are — and they want to take advantage of your friends, family, loved ones, and other targets of your holiday spending. According to a release the group “aims to adopt the unique targeting capability inherent in HIV controllers to give everyone that same immunity to HIV.”

You’re probably wondering what are HIV controllers? But the better question to ask “is who they are:”

HIV controllers are miraculous: are people who have a natural immunity to HIV. Although controllers carry low levels of HIV, the virus is in a dormant state and they do not contract AIDS.

IP plans on taking whatever it is that makes controllers controllers and giving it “to the world for free.”

But first come baby steps. IP teamed up with Gyft, a popular gift card app consolidator that stores all of your gift card info (and sells you gift cards). Gyft launched a points program that allows users to earn up to 3 percent back for all gift card purchases while supporting a great cause of their choice (one of those choices is IP, of course). One hundred percent of these donations to IP in December will go toward their work.

“We are thrilled to harness the power of our 21st-century approach to buying and managing gift cards to support a similarly revolutionary approach to ending AIDS,” said CJ MacDonald, co-founder and chief operating officer of Gyft. “In the spirit of World AIDS Day and the holiday season, our message to customers is simple – if you are a planning on buying gift cards in December, you have no excuse not to do it through Gyft and support an effort that could solve one of society’s most vexing problems – ending AIDS.”

SFGN got in touch with Dr. Reid Rubsamen, founder and chief executive officer of Immunity Project, to get the nitty gritty about IP and what it can do for the world.

How long until IP is able to emulate the physiological processes of a controller into a vaccine?

If the vaccine works it will do precisely that when it is first tested (in Phase I testing) next year.  We won't be able to show evidence that we have actually "created" a controller until we do Phase II testing in 2015.

How is IP going to supply vaccines for free? Won't there be a cost involved?

This is the first vaccine designed from the start to be available for free on the back end.  Each phase of development will be funded to allow this to happen.  You are seeing the first phase of funding strategy happening now.  As the project moves along we will be adding in other funding sources including large corporations, NGOs and government funding - all of whom have a steak in the fight against HIV. The other aspect of a "free" vaccine is to make the cost distribution and administration of the dose as low cost as possible.  For this reason we are pursuing a nasal dosage form allowing a single squeeze from a nasal spray bottle stored at room temperature with no doctor or nurse intervention required for dosing.

Can would-be parents do anything to promote "control" in potential offspring?

This a great question and we don't know the answer (a tough one because there is currently no vaccine administered for fetal protection during pregnancy)!

IP’s goal is $1 million.

For more information, go to immunityproject.orgSasha Razumikhin

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