- Amazon is working on a cure for the common cold as part of its secretive "Project Gesundheit," skunkworks group, according to a report in CNBC.
- Grand Challenge, a research and development group under Amazon Web Services, heads the years-long effort.
- According to WebMD, there are about one billion estimated cases of the common cold each year in the U.S. The CDC estimates that adults contract an average of 2-3 colds per year.
Medical researchers have been seeking out a cure for the common cold for nearly 70 years, all to no avail. Now, an unlikely vaccine development group thinks that it can realize the ever-elusive solution—and it's happening at Amazon.
A small group of the tech company's employees, part of a skunkworks group called "Grand Challenge," have been quietly working on a cure over the last few years, according to a report in CNBC, and the effort is called "Project Gesundheit." According to that report, Grand Challenge hopes to create a vaccine, but is also investigating other cures or prevention methods.
While it's generally understood that it's near-impossible to come up with a vaccine—given that there are so many strains of rhinovirus and coronavirus, which cause the weeklong illness—Amazon could isolate the most common strains of these viruses and look for a cure. But even then, cold-causing viruses are known for their ability to mutate and develop resistance to drugs.
The history of searching for a common cold cure also is full of noble-yet-failed attempts. These efforts date back to the 1950s, when the rhinovirus was first isolated, and continue up through 2019, when Stanford researchers said that they've developed a way to pause reproduction of rhinoviruses for a possible vaccine.
Amazon certainly has the money to fund this research, but why would an e-commerce company want to do battle with the common cold? Amazon hasn't publicly acknowledged Grand Challenge so it's unlikely we'll know in the near future, though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is known for his grand—if not entirely plausible—ideas.
In any case, Amazon is not alone. The Stanford team continues its search for a possible cold vaccine, and researchers at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, are doing the same.
But if history is any indicator, you'll still need to stock up on chicken noodle soup and Tylenol for the foreseeable future.
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