Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Amazon disrupted the books, grocery, and shipping business, and now its set its sights on viral infections. The tech company has apparently tasked a team of employees to research and develop a cure for the common cold, a CNBC report indicates today. Under an effort called Project Gesundheit, three people familiar with the effort tell CNBC that Amazon is specifically looking to develop a vaccine that would stave off cold infections. This small team exists under the broader Grand Challenge group within Amazon, CNBC says.
Creating a vaccine for the common cold is particularly difficult because there are so many strains, and the viruses can mutate over time to develop a vaccine or drug resistance. Even with the flu, the yearly vaccine only protects against the strains that scientists predict will be especially prevalent in a given year.
Grand Challenge assesses bigger issues that could impact humanity, particularly in health care, and is run by Babak Parviz, who used to run Alphabets research and development efforts. Amazon has focused on the medical industry as an area for growth. The company purchased online pharmacy startup PillPack and announced plans to sell software that will read medical records. Its Alexa assistant also now allows people to access their medical information. A cold vaccine, or other solution, would be different from Amazons earlier efforts in the space, but would also be a monumental development for people around the world if successful.