Amazon has been secretly working for years to cure the common cold with an initiative called “Project Gesundheit,” according to a report from CNBC.
The company has staffed more than 100 people in a research and development group called Grand Challenge, which exists under Amazon’s cloud computing division, AWS. A small part of that group is actively working to cure the common ailment.
Although the goal is to make a vaccine, the team is coming from multiple angles to try and solve the common ailment. The effort has been called the “vaccine project.”
According to a 2003 study by the University of Michigan, the cold costs the U.S. economy $40 billion per year due to doctors’ visits and productivity losses. The cold also accounts for 200 million missed school days, which means parents often miss work as well.
Grand Challenge has not yet publicly acknowledged by Amazon. The mission of the initiative is to find solutions to some of humanity’s biggest problems. Although it is not only focused on healthcare, there is a large opportunity in that sector – in just the U.S., the medical industry represents a $3.5 trillion market.
The common cold is caused by a class of virus called the rhinovirus, of which there are 160 strains. Finding a cure is difficult because the cold easily mutates and goes away in about a week. “The prevailing wisdom is that it’s impossible because there are so many different viruses that cause the common cold,” said Greg Yap, a health-focused investor with Menlo Ventures.
A cure is technically probable, but it would need to be very accurate and have little side effects in order to generate a profit.
“Yes, we can certainly develop better treatments,” said Mike Pellini, a venture capitalist with Section 32 and a diagnostics expert. “But the biggest challenge is that the drug has to have almost zero side effects.”