It’s no coronavirus, but the common cold is nothing to sneeze at — and Amazon is working to deliver a cure, according to a report.
In the e-tail giant’s hush-hush “Project Gesundheit,” several researchers are seeking to develop a vaccine against, as well as treatment for, the world’s most common malady, three people familiar with the effort told CNBC.
The small team is part of a secretive research and development group called Grand Challenge — which Amazon has not publicly acknowledged — that is tasked with finding solutions to large problems vexing humanity.
The scientists working on the effort, also known as the “vaccine project,” hope to come up with an elusive cure for the age-old illness that in about three-quarter of cases is caused by rhinoviruses, the news outlet reported.
“The prevailing wisdom is that it’s impossible because there are so many different viruses that cause the common cold,” said Greg Yap, a life sciences investor with Menlo Ventures.
Other experts said a new treatment for the cold is possible, but noted that it would have to be very accurate in order to eventually yield profits.
“Yes, we can certainly develop better treatments,” diagnostics exec Mike Pellini told CNBC.
“But the biggest challenge is that the drug has to have almost zero side effects,” he told the outlet, because most people fully recover in a week or two and the side effects could potentially be more serious than the cold itself.
“There’s also a major question of whether insurance would pay for it, like they do with the influenza vaccine,” he added.
The sources familiar with the effort declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss internal projects. An Amazon rep declined to comment to CNBC.
Meanwhile, researchers at Stanford and the University of California also are working on a cure for the cold through a novel approach that involves temporarily disabling a single protein inside the cells, the outlet reported.
“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?’” said Stanford virologist Jan Carnette.
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