MIT Media Lab, Report to the President 2015-2016

[Table] IAmA: I am Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab – Ask Me Anything!

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Date: 2015-05-29
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You've talked about your new motto "Deploy or die" in a few talks. Does that mean you don't see any value in pure research? How do students at MIT deploy things, is there funding? When the Media Lab was founded 30 years ago, Nicholas Negroponte said that the Media Lab was about "demo or die" as opposed to "publish or perish" which represented a departure from the paper writing of academic to a more prototype and demo model. This fit well with the roots in architecture which also focuses on the atelier model of building things. This actually allows rigor at an interdisciplinary level that couldn't occur if participants across disciplines had to write an academic paper together. This worked very well for 30 years especially when a large percentage of the impact of the Media Lab was through influencing other organizations such as the sponsors of the Media Lab to create products such as guitar hero, the Kindle or LEGO Mindstorms.
However, with the diminishing cost of deploying things like websites or even hardware, researchers at the Media Lab are increasingly able to deploy directly. Last year, we change "demo or die" to deploy or die to signal a shift from just building prototypes (Nicholas actually said, "the demo only has to work once") to thinking about and actually deploying our work directly into the world.
What are the strategies of the Media Lab in order to have Global impact? I´m working in a similar lab but I guess we do not have all the impact that we should have. We do a number of things. One thing is my Director's Fellows Program: Link to directorsfellows.media.mit.edu
We also do a lot of workshops overseas... we've done many in India and recently in Brazil, Nairobi, Abu Dhabi and soon in Mexico City, etc. These involve students, faculty and fellows.
We also collaborate with a lot of organizations internationally.
Each of our groups also do quite a bit of work in the field. Ethan Zuckerman and the Center for Civic Media is one group that does a variety of projects internationally: Link to civic.mit.edu
Ramesh Raskar and his group Camera Culture do a great deal in India: Link to cameraculture.media.mit.edu
And Joost Bonsen and Sandy Pentland teach a course called Development Ventures which is focused on creating venture businesses in developing countries and has been very successful: Link to d-lab.mit.edu
And there is a lot of stuff going on that I don't know.
So the strategy is to encourage global interaction and get out of the way and let people do it as well as support and nudge where it helps.
You said you never completed college. Do you think your career choices would have been different if you did? I think that there are probably a few people - mostly white men - for whom dropping out of college turned out to be exactly the right thing. I think that for the most part, a college degree will increase options for just about anyone, so I always try to convince my students - not just because it's now my job to - to complete their degrees. The people who should drop out, will drop out anyway and so anyone who can be convinced to not drop out, probably shouldn't.
In my case, it's hard to say. There is a total survivorship bias since it could just be luck that I turned out OK and you're not talking to the 99% of the people for whom it sucked because they couldn't get the job because they didn't have the degree.
My career choices would probably have been different, but I really don't think that you take my choices as any guide for how to live your own life since we're all pretty different... sorry about the non-answer here.
What would you say to the individuals who has tought of similar, same ideas that are happening in the media lab but never come to the realization phase ? This is one big thing that that I have been pushing since I got to the Media Lab - to post more stuff to the Internet and share as much as possible. We're posting all of our videos and other things.
The reason is that the Internet allows people to see what we're doing and allows us to see what they're doing. This enables us to collaborate with people thinking about similar things or to avoid doing things that others are already doing or have done. One of the key things that we focus on is to NOT do things that others are already doing. This doesn't always work, but I think that as more and more work from across the world is available and searchable online, the less likely we see redundancy.
So for individuals who have similar ideas, I would suggest contacting the research group at the Media Lab that is working on the idea to see if there is a way to collaborate.
See for example: Link to videos.media.mit.edu
What do you mean by "anti disciplinary"? Is that just a cool way of saying interdisciplinary? No. Interdisciplinary is when the chemist and the biologist talk to each other. Antidisciplinary is when you are between or beyond the disciplines.
When I think about the "space" that we've created, I like to think about a huge piece of paper that represents "all science." The disciplines are little black dots on this paper. The massive amounts of white space between the dots represent antidisciplinary space. Many people would like to play in this white space, but there is very little funding for this, and it's even harder to get a tenured positions without some sort of disciplinary anchor in one of the black dots.
And this is important because the lines between hardware, software, biology - they're blurring and almost everything interesting is actually antidisciplinary.
See my blog post: Link to joi.ito.com
With respect to standard English definitions, you are describing the word interdisciplinary. Yes, you're right. I would still say that we are more "antidisciplinary" than "interdisciplinary" in that although we do connect branches of knowledge, I think my premise is that there is knowledge that is missing from the traditional "branches" of the disciplines and we are actually trying to find the "gaps" or the areas not traditionally covered by disciplines well. Also, while we have many teams that involve more than one person, we try to have at least 2 orthogonal domains in each single person. The "inter" in "interdisciplinary" seems to focus too much on connecting between things rather than being the between itself.
Typically, this involves more than one person (eg. chemist and biologist) but as long as the work pertains to more than one branch of knowledge - we call it interdisciplinary. I realize these are maybe minor differences, but it sets a tone that is fairly different.
What are your thoughts on the bitcoin max blocksize limit? How can consensus be reached when many of the core devs strongly disagree? Do you see this as a major hurdle for bitcoin? If Bitcoin should use an increase in block size to increase the number of transactions per second is an important debate. More importantly, how this decision is made will be a good example of how the community of developers, entrepreneurs, miners, and users will continue to collaborate on major changes to bitcoin core. Over the last few months there has been a rich discussion through blog posts and open email chains. The MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative is happy to host an open forum where a discussion can take place in person and online with the goal of coming to a satisfactory conclusion by the participants. While it might take some trial and error to figure out exactly how this could work, we're happy to support the community in this way if they think it would be helpful to come to a conclusion on this topic and use this model as an example for future discussions.
Thoughts on the Lightning network? Thoughts on privacy in bitcoin? 1) On privacy: Bitcoin isn’t private. Financial privacy is really important. In the US, many think of privacy as a means for terrorists to hide, but in countries with governments that do not have an open society it is a powerful tool for the citizens to be able to protect their ability to dissent and have freedoms that we take for granted. I’m excited about the potential for technology like ZeroCash to revolutionize this space. The tricky part of any global protocol or network is that anything we do in one country ripples across the world and has unintended consequences. The key is balancing the needs of people in a huge variety of environments.
2) On Lightning: It’s a great idea. I’ve been thinking of Bitcoin as a layer on the internet stack, like TCP/IP. Protocols like lightning are like HTTP, making it easier and more accessible for the world.
Sounds political ;) It sort of is. :-)
In the course of your career, what has been your greatest setback or stumbling block? I think that every major setback that I've had has made me stronger so in many ways - like a healthy immune system - without the challenges, I wouldn't have growth would be who I am. So first off, I don't see setbacks or stumbling blocks (as long ask they don't kill you) as negative things.
Probably the thing that set me back the most was when my mother died of cancer and it turned out that we had spent all of our money + a couple of hundreds of thousands of dollars on medical bills. I ended up spending the next few years living in a pretty shitty place working for a pretty shitty guy digging myself out of the hole. At some level that built character, but I think it also provided me with the energy to get off my ass and do real work and start a real business so I didn't have to work for people I didn't like.
Hi there! Thanks once again for this AMA. In relation to the question above, what would you consider your biggest failure and how did you learn from this? Much thanks. My biggest failure was probably the incubator that I built in 2000 in Japan called Neoteny. We were backed by some VCs who thought that a big full service incubator would be more successful than a fund so we built a big facility, hired a bunch of people (40+), raised a bunch of money and started investing in and incubating companies. A lot of this was driven by the VC and the market at the time where many incubators were going public at valuations that were many times the value of their portfolios. Soon this model fell out of favor of the market, the model didn't actually work that well, the VCs pushed us to shut down and I had to fire everyone and wind the company down, pay the remaining cash back to our investors and set up a skeleton team to manage the portfolio of investments.
We did some good things like invest in Six Apart that developed Movable Type which didn't end up being a great investment financially, but did help bring blogging to the world.
Although I view it as a massive failure on my part, almost all of my investors are still friends and many of them have continued to invest in my companies and my funds, in part because I think we were always honest and tried to make the right decisions for the employees as well as the shareholders.
Last updated: 2015-06-03 01:52 UTC
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[Table] IAmA: We are creating the HIV/AIDS vaccine to give away to the world for free. Dr. Rubsamen, Co-Founder of Immunity Project here. AMA.

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Date: 2014-01-24
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Will it always be free? Our primary mission is to end HIV/AIDS. In order to accomplish this goal the vaccine has to be free. There are far too many people who are living with HIV who could never afford a commercial drug. Therefore the answer is yes!
I've got no question, but I just wanted to thank you for what you're doing. Here's wishing you all the very best! We really appreciate your support! Please remember to donate at Link to pledge.immunityproject.org
Why have you provided no sources or scientific background on your website? We have submitted our manuscript with our animal data for publication in a PRJ - we will link to the article as soon as it is released!
What about previous research that informed this project? It would be nice to see what you are basing it on. Would you consider adding a more sciency FAQ for researchers who want more background? Jain, S., D. O'Hagan, and M. Singh The long-term potential of biodegradable poly(lactideco‑glycolide) microparticles as the next-generation vaccine adjuvant. Expert Rev. Vaccines, 2011. 10, 11 DOI: 10.1586/ERV.11.126.
Thanks for the suggestion! For sure we need a more science-oriented FAQ! We will get to work on that.
If I may ask, what journal? When did you submit? It seems a bit fast to move on to human trials before the animal trials are published. (Speaking from personal experience in extremely cautious publishing/funding schedules) We have submitted to Vaccine. Our funding is not dependent on the publication. We aim to start FDA Phase I clinical trials this year.
If you don't mind. Who are the first and last authors on the manuscript? No problem! I am the first and Dr. David Heckerman is the last!
Just wondering why, if this is a potentially revolutionary vaccine, it's not in one of the holy trinity journals? Why not aim high? Great question! Nature, Science at al cover science broadly and need articles of general interest to scientists across disciplines as well as non-scientists. Our work to date is more relevant to speciality journals interested in the vaccine and drug-delivery domains.
If this was compelling enough, wouldn't it be easy to get the Gates Foundation behind this? Seems like small money compared to the problem and if the case was strong enough, I'm sure he'd put up the cash. I have spoken with them and they are really great people! Like the NIH, with some positive human clinical data we can get them interested in our approach. We need crowd funding to get us to that point. Hence, pledge.immunityproject.org. Thanks for your support!
1) How is your approach different from other HIV T cell-inducing vaccines (Link to www.plospathogens.org Link to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Link to www.plosone.org among others) that likely include the same conserved regions that you intend to target? 1) We are targeting a single, specific epitope.
2) If your immutable region of the virus proteome is small, what is the likelihood that the majority of the population will have HLA class I molecules that can bind peptides derived from this region? 2) The epitopes in the vaccine will be HLA restricted - we will need a master vaccine "cocktail" with enough epitopes (maybe two dozen) to cover relevant multiple HLA types.
3) What do you mean when you say the vaccine will be free? That there will be no royalties or patents? That it can be manufactured by any group free of charge without licensing? That all components of the vaccine will be gifted from the supplier? 3) We want the vaccine to be free to the end-user.
4) From 2000-2010, there are hundreds of articles describing HIV-specific T cell responses in general and immune responses mounted by HIV controllers in particular. How is your approach distinct from and superior to these studies? 4) We are developing a vaccine that will be able to make essentially anyone a controller by creating killer T cell clones that will attach HIV at the same points favored by the controllers. Thanks for your questions!
3) Couldn't the same claim be made for anything whose delivery to end-users is completely subsidized by someone else (e.g., I want to build a "free cell phone", but it is only free if someone else pays for it)? Can you also comment on licensing? Are all the components of the vaccine free-to-use and manufacture by anyone, including generics manufacturers? 3) Yes. We hold the IP and will make sure all licenses are provided for free all the way for the end consumer.
Wow, first AMA where I saw the author reply to the follow up questions. Wow. I try! :)
Why are you forgoing NIH funding and focusing on crowdsourced funds? You realize this looks a little sketchy to the medical community? Also, are you publishing anything soon in a peer-reviewed journal? Edit: your website has some great design; I would just like a little more science. HIV vaccine research, including that funded by NIH, has largely been based on neutralizing antibodies. We are taking a different approach – we need to generate some human data to get funders like the NIH interested in our approach.
I'd like to see some more published research before getting excited about this. Good luck! Thank you for your support! We've submitted our manuscript and data to Vaccine and we will link to the article as soon as its published.
Flow Pharma is the inventor of the vaccine - they are a FOR PROFIT angel backed company. Why do they need crowdfunding? What is your exact relationship with them? Hi opendomain, thanks for your question! I am CEO of Flow Pharma, Inc and Immunity Project. Immunity Project is a non profit initiative in partnership with Flow Pharma, Inc.
Yes, Flow Pharma is a for-profit company and we have developed all of the delivery technology for the Immunity Project HIV vaccine prototype. While Flow Pharma is a for profit entity, our HIV vaccine is a 100% non profit project. To facilitate this we setup a fiscal sponsorship arrangement with HIV/AIDS focused 501(c)3 Until There's A Cure. What this means is that any funds that are donated to Until There's A Cure via our crowd funding campaign for the Immunity Project are then given to us to use solely on our HIV vaccine project. And we must operate our project in a 100% non profit manner. The reason we did this is because we wanted to partner with an existing, well regarded 501(c)3 vs. setting up our own, and we wanted to expedite our work (setting up a 501(c)3 takes a long time). To be clear I am required to operate Immunity Project as a non profit in every way, and to distribute our vaccine worldwide for free.
We need crowd funding and donations because our project doesn't have a profit motive so we cannot finance it with venture or angel capital. Our mission is to end HIV/AIDS and in order to do that we need to give our vaccine away to the world for free. Please let us know if you have any other questions!
Realistically, how close do you think you are to developing a working HIV vaccine that can be mass-produced on a workable scale, meaning cost and resources don't limit quantity? We are raising money currently for the final experiment before we approach the FDA. This experiment will help us see how close we are now to having a working vaccine. We are designing the vaccine for manufacturability from the get-go. We plan to use the same manufacturing process for large scale manufacturing by building more of the same spray-drying modules we use today.
Loved the idea so much I donated on the first day and shared on every possible social media available. If everything else fails, you are at least revolutionizing medical research funding: you are the second non profit on YCombinator, and you're using crowdfunding. What do you think the future of medical research funding will be? Will these new methods (or other innovations) be the main source of funding, in your opinion? Hi rjtavares, thank you for your support! We in the medical research community need to focus on solving problems. There are millions of people living with HIV who could never afford any commercial medication. Therefore why even both trying to charge? Our hope is that Immunity Project serves as a model for other researchers with the same mission driven focus. If there are any researchers who want to pursue a similar approach, we would be more then happy to help them in anyway we can!
Follow-up question: I'm a big fan of Paul Graham and YCombinator, but their experience is far from this particular field. What do you think they can add to the project? Paul Graham, Paul Buchheit, Sam Altman and the entire team at Y Combinator have been absolutely incredible. They have by far the best experience on how to build great organizations, and focus on whats important whether the goal for profit, or non profit, biotech or not. Without their help we wouldn't have setup pledge.immunityproject.org! We are honored to be a part of the Y Combinator W14 batch!
Is this something that can be used on current HIV infections or is it solely a preventive measure? Thank you for your question! We need to test this but our vaccine may have the potential to be therapeutic. The approach lends itself to that possibility but testing is required to confirm our hypothesis.
Seeing as the cold chain poses a considerable obstacle to vaccine dispersal, is this vaccine stable at room temperature? I'd imagine distributing the vaccine in warmer climates (Africa, parts of Asia, etc.) where continuous refrigeration may not be available would prove difficult otherwise. Our vaccine is being designed in a nasal dosage formulation (as opposed to a needle injection) This means it will be in powder format, inert at room temperature, and will require NO refrigeration at any time. Pretty cool, huh?
Do you take bitcoin donations? We certainly do! Link to www.immunityproject.org
Assume everything goes as planned and you are able to start distributing the vaccine worldwide. Are you concerned you'll meet the same resistance that the Polio Vaccine is meeting in the Middle East and Africa? And if so, what do you think can be done to avoid this? Controllers have been followed for many years now and their "immune system strategy" keeps on working. If we can successfully copy their approach, hopefully resistance will not be an issue!
Why did you choose HIV/AIDS to cure. Do you know anyone with AIDS personally? I was an intern in medicine in San Francisco in 1986. I had unusually good training in immunology for the time at Stanford where I actually got to use one of the first FACS machines (cell sorters) in Dr. Leonard Herzenberg's lab - now commonly used in immunology research. Despite all this, we could do nothing to help any of the inpatients with a diagnosis of AIDS. Although we don't routinely see young people among us dying of AIDS, the problem is extremely severe in places like Durban. Immunity Project represents what I think is the best IT/Biotech collaboration in history. This is a great opportunity for me to leverage my medical and computer science background to make a safe and effective HIV vaccine.
As a microbiologist with infectious disease background: You guys are awesome. Take my money! Question: What's a best- and (semi-, we don't want it just plain not ever working)worst-case estimate of when this will be available 1) In the western world and 2) In sub-sahara Africa? We can begin testing in Sub Sahran Africa about 6 months after the US FDA clears our IND (due to the African regulatory authority review process). Phase I, II testing should be done by 2016 or early 2017 - may be possible to start Phase III in late 2016 or early-mid 2017. Phase III could be completed in a high-infection rate place like Durban in two years. Best case scenario for approval in the US would be probably 2019-2020.
Have any companies tried to stop you guys yet? With all of your guys help and support, no one can stop us! Thank you for helping us make Immunity Project happen!
Good afternoon, Doctor! Thank you so much for coming to reddit. I just one simple question. Do you have any thoughts on string cheese as a snack food? Do you enjoy it? My kids love the stuff and send me to the fridge hourly to gat it (we buy the really large packs from Costco) - I often grab one for myself!!
I'm curious, what are the estimated monetary and time costs to develop the vaccine? I understand these would be very loose numbers. Just generally curious. We need less than $500K to finish this experiment, $25MM to complete Phase I (if we really squeeze the buffalo off of the nickel!) and another $20MM to complete Phase II. Phase III will require an order of magnitude more funding to complete.
But if you get to phase III, won't the Gates Foundation back you up to a certain degree, making the funding a non-issue? Absolutely. Once we get to Phase I, foundations such as the Gates Foundation will come into play. They've already expressed interest, but want to see initial Phase I Human trial data first.
Controllers have detectable levels of HIV virus in their blood. Therefore, we don’t know if we can prevent transmission. I don't want to sound callous when I say this, because I really want to see a cure for HIV. But if controllers can infect others with HIV and never get AIDS themselves, aren't they the most "dangerous" of infected individuals? By creating a treatment that creates more of them, is there the risk that HIV might spread even more: even though you might relieve suffering of some, not everyone might be able to afford or get access to your treatment? It's a really good question! Controllers are born with some (small) number of T-Cells pre-programmed to hit an epitope critical to preventing the evolution to AIDS. I want to see if our vaccine can set up a more "potent" immune response resulting in more T-Cells going after targets. We now know that an HAART blood level in an HIV negative person can prevent HIV transmission (to them). Maybe a fast, robust T-Cell response to an acute infection would do the same thing. We won't know without clinical data.
Has this been tested on any humans yet? Hey riveroaken! We have performed an ex-vivo test with human blood. The experiment we are crowd funding right now will test the vaccine in human blood in an external environment (humanized mice). We aim to test in live humans this year during our Phase I Human Clinical Trials.
Thanks for the response. Do you see any big pharmaceuticals jumping on board to fund? Not at this time. It may be difficult for Big Pharma to get their arms around a non-profit effort like this - but maybe not!
When/if this reaches FDA approval who will this be targeted to? Our goal is the end of HIV/AIDS so we want to reach everyone starting with those at highest risk for HIV infection worldwide!
How close are you to a cure? Our vaccine is being designed to upgrade your immune system to give you the same power as HIV Controllers. There is a possibility the vaccine will also function similarly to a "cure", acting therapeutic for those already infected with HIV. Thank you for your support!
Quite possibly the greatest thing i've read all year if true. How close are you to "creating" it? If we achieve our funding goals for the Phase I clinical trial (separate from the experiment we are raising money for now) we can be testing in humans this year!
Reid, how many mice are you planning on infected? Are you planning on doing a series of infections or just one? Hi Surf_Science, thank you for your question! Our plan is less then 50. We are vaccinating the mice, taking the blood out and then infecting the CD4 cells.
Do you think this approach can be used for developing other drugs useful for mankind in the future ? Absolutely!! We are solely focused on HIV at the moment, but are very excited to explore this in the future.
Do other scientists/researchers believe you will succeed? How will it be decided who gets it, if it's free how will it be paid for (I'm assuming the crowd funding is for the research?) Last one isn't a question but a good luck, I hope it works out message instead. We are getting tons of great support from the scientific research community. We are targeting anyone and everyone for the vaccine, but may start in regions with the highest infection rates. It will be paid for by everyone who wants to see the end of HIV/AIDS.
Who or what is your biggest influence in regards to your career path? My father, who said "the greatest opportunity occurs at the interface between two disciplines" which is why he became a doctor and lawyer focused on patient safety.
This may sound like a stupid question, but how do you even know this will work? Not a stupid question! We think it will work because we are trying to copy the immune system behavior of HIV controllers - individuals who get the HIV virus infection but who do not progress to AIDS.
Fair enough. Will it cure the virus completely and make people immune or put it into a state of remission for those who have it already? We are hoping that people living with HIV who also have a healthy immune system (e.g. people on HAART meds with normal CD4 counts) will benefit from a vaccination with our vaccine - ideally be able to stop taking HAARTs. No way to know this without careful clinical testing.
What happens if the vaccine is unsuccessful? We are designing the vaccine to be as safe as possible. We are tuning the formulation using animal models to have the best shot at getting an immune response in Phase I. I have a lot of confidence in the target selection - hence a lot of confidence in success as we go forward!
You all are brilliant... Serious question... Can I get your autographs? This is the first time someone has asked for our autographs. Crossing this off the bucket list! Yes absolutely, please email us @ [email protected]!
Do you fear that the whole idea of it being free could go wrong, like some big pharmaceutical company making a huge con and try to make profit from your vaccine? Hi blocodents, thank you for your question! We are fearless! We are firmly committed to making our vaccine free no matter what curve balls are thrown our way.
What's you favorite color? Green, obviously! The color of my scrubs!
Are you gonna get to work on herpes and other viruses after HIV/AIDS is taken care of? Great question! Sure, if there are controllers for herpes or other diseases we may be able to help there as well.
How are you today? Doing pretty well... really excited about the $150,000 we raised yesterday on pledge.immunityproject.org! How are you doing?
No too bad! How do you think the world will react when they hear this? They'll probably ask for a Reddit AMA ;)
Do you think, drug manufacturers/governments will give you a hassle or make your product harder to obtain in any part of the world for releasing an HIV immunity vaccine? and if they do, what could be a few good reasons why? No one has given us a hard time so far. Maybe I'm eternally optimistic but I think we are in a big tent with a great technology and I would personally welcome anybody in who wants to help us!
If you had the funding of one of the top US drug manufacturers, how would you change the way they run and what they do? (you don't have to answer this one to protect the innocent) Making an safe and effective HIV vaccine is the Mount Everest of pharma development projects. When we make some forward progress with human clinical testing maybe we'll get some interest from Big Pharma for the world's biggest Pharma give-away!
How are you intending to keep this vaccine 100% free even though there will be costs such as producing it? Donations? Through donations including crowd funding and large legacy donor entities who may become interested as we get more data. And Link to pledge.immunityproject.org
I think it's a very noble cause you have taken up. I'm just wondering though, what will be the consequences to the planet with overpopulation if the HIV/AIDS virus is eradicated? Would it not create a situation far worse then that which virus has created? I believe that history has taught us that we will have more social stability world wide if families have confidence that their kids will live a normal life span.
So aside from the crowd funding, how can we help both promote what you are doing and keeping the distributors (when it us in production) honest? We need help keeping the black helicopters at bay! Kidding! Please tell anyone who you think might be interested or benefit from our work or approach! We hope what we are doing gives other mission driven research teams a path forward with their projects. With regards to the distributors, we will be reaching out if we run into any trouble. We hold the keys to the castle so we are confident we can keep them honest.
Isn't this what you're essentially trying to accomplish? I read your FAQ- needs more science btw- and I am not familiar with the term "HIV controllers" but I assumed that this mutation was what you were referencing. Gotcha! Our vaccine is being designed to guide Human CD8 killer T-Cells to attack HIV at the same targets favored by the controllers. We are not providing a physical blockade to HIV entry as seen with CCR5.
Thanks for the AMA! In all honesty, when do you believe HIV+ will be cured, if it will be? Assuming success in our trials, we are optimistic that we can start vaccinating humans in 2014 and hopefully begin widespread vaccination in 2015/16.
What exactly is HIV and what is the difference between HIV and AIDS? HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
When you are finished with this vaccine how do you intend to mass produce it(price and actual production). Also would this only protect people from it or would it also cure people who are already infected? If you would answer this i would be very greatful. We will manufacture Phase I and Phase II supplies. We may also manufacture Phase III doses with our team. We may look into partnerships for mass production. We will be looking at our vaccine from the standpoint both prevention and possible benefits for persons living with HIV in our clinical studies.
So how do you test the efficacy of your vaccine? Do you infect the subject somehow? My question is what happens if ones vaccine doesn't work and ends up with a lifelong disease? I saw a vaccine a few months ago for HIV and had the same thought. All vaccine studies (including our planned Phase III human clinical trial) basically rely on natural study designs where half the subjects receive the vaccine and the other half placebo. The study volunteers are followed over time and the infection and complication rates compared between the two groups. All participants are told that they may be in the control group (and that, if they are in the vaccine group that the vaccine may not work), and that they should take all precautions to prevent infection during the trial just as they were before.
Great cause. One question: I keep seeing "need more human data" ... does this mean the test would be to give someone your vaccine, then inject them with HIV to see if it accepts the virus? No!! We need to do natural studies by vaccinating large numbers of at-risk individuals and see over time if protection from the vaccine is better than control.
How does your vaccine work? CD4? CCR5? CXCR4? We are copying the behavior of controllers by getting CD8 killer T Cells to attack at specific targets which force the virus to mutate into a state where it doesn't cause a progression to AIDS. This is not related to CCR5 and is related to CD4 in the sense that we are trying to protect the immune system from attack by HIV.
Why is there a 29 day limit? Why not make it without a day limit? I thought the month-long campaign would add a sense of urgency. We also want to complete this experiment by mid-March so we can move faster with our FDA approval process. Of course we'll always be accepting donations to fund our research further.
Thank you so much for your contributions to humanity you guys are real heroes. That really means a lot- thank you!
What are your credentials and who did you train with? I studied Biochemistry and Computer Science at UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and went on to get my MD and MS in Computer Science from Stanford. I was in the PhD program in LCS (course 6,2) at MIT for two years while I was a resident at MGH and left (without getting the PhD) to start Aradigm Corporation where I spent 10 years working on inhaled drug delivery systems focusing on insulin, and small molecules.
How do you expect to compete (no offense but with dated equipment)? Since leaving Aradigm in 2001 I have been working on microsphere based drug delivery and have been working for three years on this project.
How exaxtly is your approach different? The novel aspect of our approach is that we are developing a vaccine to direct killer T Cells to target the same epitopes favored by HIV controllers. These epitopes were identified by Dave Heckerman at Microsoft Research who I met 20 years ago when we were both graduate students at Stanford.
Howcome you and your ideas aren't competitive through those routes? NIH funding has been directed largely toward neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine research. If we can generate some Phase I clinical data, I think they might become interested in our approach.
With HIV being able to evolve so fast and being able to live for up to 20 years in cells, how are you able to end HIV? 3rd year microbiologist here! So while I'm most defiantly not an expert, I know some things. Thanks for the question! We are trying to copy what controllers do. They target specific (HLA restricted) epitopes such that, when HIV is attacked at those points, it is forced to mutate into what I would describe as a dormant state resulting in the host not progressing to AIDS. Other approaches have presented the immune system with multiple targets (e.g. with whole dead virus) which have resulted in decoy targeting: hitting sites that the virus can easily mutate away from. Our approach is only possible because of the work of David Heckerman who reverse engineered the controllers' biological processes, identifying the epitope targets they favor.
What's the delivery technique for the epitopes, and how is it that you're able to synthesise this HLA-specific sites? We are using biodegradable PLGA microspheres (containing the epitopes) and adjuvants (MPLA and CpG). We are getting are epitopes from an analysis of the HIV targets favored by HIV controllers. By knowing the HLA types of the controllers we studied, we can understand the HLA restrictions on the epitopes.
How close are you to completing this vaccine? Are they already in human trials? We having a working prototype and plan on being in Phase I clinical trials in the US this year pending FDA approval.
Have you experienced any backlash for what you are doing (ie. someone speaking out against you and what your team is doing?) I haven't heard any backlash so far. We are just trying to do some good science with alternative forms of funding. We need to work on more visual explanations of what we are doing - thanks for the suggestion!
Pardon my ignorance with the medicine and biology field, but is this vaccine to be only used on currently HIV positive humans? If it's the latter, would this mean people who are not HIV positive would be getting the vaccine in order to prevent the disease, or would you need to be positive to get the vaccine? We are designing the vaccine to be used to protect against HIV infection. It may only require one dose (we need to do human clinical studies to determine this). You would NOT need to be HIV positive to get the vaccine.
I just had one last question. Like I said, pardon my ignorance, but if you vaccinate someone who didn't have HIV originally, would that mean they now have HIV? However, with it being a weaker virus than it originally is, the human body could now fight it off... with relative ease? Our vaccine design has no live virus - a vaccination would NOT mean that you would now have HIV.
How close are you? Your personal opinion. I am personally very confident that we have something here that will work. I believe that the targeting is correct and that our current dosage form will produce an immune response with memory in humans.
Hi there! High school student here. Our class has been reading about HeLa cells, and I just wanted to know what type of cells do you use for testing! Is it a type of cell line, or do you use regular blood you get in blood drives? Also, sorry in advance if this is a dumb question. Not a dumb question at all! We use peripheral blood white cells from volunteers through a regular blood draw.
Last updated: 2014-01-28 19:29 UTC
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MLTalks: Bitcoin Developers Gavin Andresen, Cory Fields, and Wladimir van der Laan

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