Mapping tech uses flu to show why HIV vaccine is taking so long

Mapping tech uses flu to show why HIV vaccine is taking so long

Summary: Microsoft research explores mutations of the HIV virus in an attempt to help create a vaccine.

TOPICS: Health

I finally got around to getting this year's flu shot Friday afternoon. I say finally, because the shot has actually already been available in my local area for a week or two!

It seemed a bit early for the flu vaccine. I confirmed this by going back and looking at the article I wrote for ZDNet Health last year, which talked about a texting program to incentivize influenza vaccination, and included a vaccine resource guide. Check out the CDC's 2012-2013 influenza vaccine FAQ for the latest information.

Since the vaccine is out a bit earlier this year, it's great that we can step right up and arm ourselves against influenza by getting immunized at the start of the season. This stands in stark contrast with the sad fact that we still don't have the HIV vaccine we were promised over a decade ago, despite all the hard work and funding that have gone into the struggle.

In order to understand why it's been so difficult to create an immunization for HIV, watch the video below to see some fascinating graphic mapping of HIV mutations in comparison with the flu virus. You'll get an idea of the scope of the problem, see how tools from the Microsoft Biology Initiative are being used to find solutions, and get a healthy dose of hope.

Topic: Health


Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.

Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

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  • Microsoft what?

    95% of all research centers use Linux and opens source packages such as EMBOSS, PAML, PHRAP etc. and have done so for decades. MS is Johny come late wannabe.
    Next-gen sequencing is also done with open source packages and there are a number of images on Amazon cloud to use.
    I know MS are trying to get into this area, but running BLAST is not going to help much. They lack the expertise and the goodwill of the community.
    • ?

      hmmm... Microsoft and the Bill Gates foundation have been invovled in fighting Aids for over a decade. They also have worked on neural networks to fight HIV and Cancers for decades.

      They certainly aren't Johny come late, and as far as the goodwill of the community you might just want to take a poll of normal people and not just your OSS friends.
      • just a few for your reference

        Here are some links to Microsoft's activity around HIV
      • Did I talk about the foundation???

        You (and the other poster) are talking about funding research. Which is in general good I have never claimed otherwise. And probably will not.
        On the other hand MS, I am saying it again has been in the bioinformatics area for only few years. Running BLAST does not make you an expert in bioinformatics.
        I have never seen any real research, neural networks or not on cancer or HIV done by MS. Can you elaborate?
        They have no good will among bioinfo developers and this is the only thing that matters.
        Huge amount of research is being done on Amazon. A lot of public sequence data is there (1000 genomes for example).
        BTW, please define normal.
        • I'm the only one...

          posting to you. I added reference links to research Microsoft has done. If you look at any of these (just a few of the hundreds) you will find CarlK on many of them. He is a Microsoft Researcher and is key to all of these.

          They aren't just funding research as you state.

          Normal -> in not being so adimant about a technology choice that they blindly overlook other's accomplishments.
          • Normal

            I have been in the field for decades. I have not seen a single publication with MS participation in it.
            The field is rather large so it does not mean there cannot be any; this is not what I am arguing.
            Again- prove me wrong that MS had a sizeable presence in the past. I saw no references BTW.
            Go to any major bioinfo developer mail list- ask if they develop for/do their analysis on MS. You will hear the crickets. This is the norm.
            When I see accomplishments I will acknowledge those. The only thing I have seen from MS so far is running BLAST ona grid .... hmm, sorry, cloud. This won't cut it. I am still waiting for references on neural networks, I am genuinely interested.
          • take a look

            at this guys research and publications please

          • Yes, but still an exception?

            This guy is awesome and is doing really cool stuff.... Still an exception is just that- an exception. There are some awesome people working for MS, I know some. But this does not change what I am saying in any way.
            As for the bitdisaster: sure you can run R on Windows. PAML, emboss, etc. as well. But really- who wants to? For one off jobs it is fine, but how many genomes were assembled on Windows?
            There is actually a requirement to know very well Linux in bioinfo, we have never hired (and probably never will) a person with no Linux expertise. I might be a fanboy, but this is not just me... So you are really limiting your job opportunities.
        • bioinformatics on Windows

          I do bioinformatics on Windows. The Biology Initiative is not just about running BAST. They very useful tools and libraries. And don't forget that R runs on Windows as well. There is really no requirement to run Linux if you wanna do research in bioinformatics. Of course you have to deal with stupid jokes from the Linux fanboys :) but I don't mind.
      • All good and dandy for the homosexual quarter

        "Microsoft and the Bill Gates foundation have been involved in fighting Aids for over a decade. "

        Too bad Gates, and the rest of our American one-world corporations, didn't apply the same fervor and funding and dedication to get America at large back to work, for the common, salt of the earth (read: neglected) Janes and Joes. But let's not allow such trivial nitpicking to tarnish his new-found sainthood, After all, Melinda might not approve.
  • Somehow...

    it just feels right for Microsoft to be into viruses. Of all the computer companies, Microsoft has the most experience in fighting viruses, since in effect all their operating systems are heavily infected. In fact, they happen to be the ONLY one infected with viruses...
    Tony Burzio
  • take a look

    at this guys research and publications
  • Overlooked

    Denise Amrich: "I finally got around to getting this year's flu shot Friday afternoon."

    You may be overlooking the importance of suggesting one likewise for the whooping cough this year. It seems to be spreading like wildfire, certainly in some parts of the country, and is especially dangerous to the very young and old. The one-time whooping cough booster vaccine is called Tdap, which I believe is a combination of tetanus and diphtheria.
  • An actual bit of progress

    There have been some rather dramatic improvements in HIV medications. And yes, I know that this is a bit of the subject of the article, but I've now been positive for nearly 23 years and at my last encounter with my doctor (who actually works at the CDC) i was told htat my viral load is less than TWENTY, with a CD4 count in the 400's. In her words , this has rendered me essentially non-infectuous and perfectly healthy. This is a result of a recently introduced medication called Atripla, of which I have been taking 1 pill per day since its' release - about three years. Though I have rarely seen any mention of this drug I felt that knowing aobut it could well encourage others who are afflicted. There was a time in the not too far distant past where I was having to take well over a dozen pills per day and my viral load was in the thousands, so it seems that we are actually making progress.