Meet Project Gesundheit: Amazon’s secret project to cure the common cold

A cure has eluded us for decades; can an e-commerce giant do what we haven’t managed to achieve?

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Amazon has been quietly working on a project to cure the common cold. 

The "years-long" scheme, dubbed "Project Gesundheit," is the work of the e-commerce giant's Grand Challenge group, according to CNBC

In the majority of cases, the common cold is caused by a class of viruses called rhinoviruses. The search for a cure for the common cold began in the 1950s but as there are so many strains in existence -- at least 160, if not more -- finding a "cure-all" method that tackles each variety of pathogen and can be concentrated into a vaccine or single method of treatment has not proved to be an easy prospect for scientists. 

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However, Amazon's team has willingly taken up the challenge.

Several sources familiar with the matter told the publication that scientists and researchers make up Project Gesundheit members and they hope to find a way to grant us immunity against the common cold, an illness that costs the US economy an estimated $40 billion per year. 

A vaccine is being considered, as are alternative measures to combat the common illness. 

The problem is that strains of rhinovirus evolve and mutate over time, and so a 'cure' would have to be able to tackle emerging varieties as well as those that currently exist. 

In addition, if treatment is rooted in biomedicine, as venture capitalist Mike Pellini told CNBC, then drugs would need to have almost no side effects to be worth taking in comparison to a general recovery period of a week or two. 

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It s also debatable whether a cure would be paid for by medical insurers in countries including the United States. 

Grand Challenge is a research and development group that has not been publicly acknowledged by Amazon but is focused on tackling humanitarian issues including, but not limited to, healthcare. 

However, Amazon's team is not the only group on the quest to cure the common cold. Last year, researchers from Stanford, the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System revealed a project to disrupt viruses from taking hold -- including rhinoviruses

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By tampering with a non-critical protein in cells, it may be possible to stop a range of viruses from replicating, such as those responsible for the common cold. 

"Our grandmas have always been asking us, 'If you're so smart, why haven't you come up with a cure for the common cold?," Jan Carette, senior author of a paper documenting the research, said. "Now we have a new way to do that."

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