The inventor of Microsoft’s spam filter believes that the principle behind keeping spam out of inboxes can also work to keep the AIDS virus at bay.
David Heckerman, who is a doctor apart from being a Microsoft researcher, shifted his attention from protecting email systems to protecting body systems, and has been working for the past seven years to prepare an HIV vaccine.
“We have an adversarial situation going on between spam filters trying to block the spam and the spammers changing and mutating,” the Age quoted him as saying.
“And in the case of HIV, we have the immune system fighting the virus and HIV mutating to try to get through,” he said.
According to him, the key to fighting spam and HIV is the same – find the part that absolutely can’t mutate – what he calls the Achilles’ heel – and attack there.
“It mutates a lot, but it can’t mutate to where it stops functioning… if it does do that, we win,” he said.
The work now is to find the point up to which the virus can mutate, and beyond which it will die.
Herckerman and his team are crunching enormous amounts of data with the help of thousands of computers in order to find clues to where that point may be.
“I think it is a solvable problem, but we have a lot of work left to do… But I’m working on this every day, and I’m hopeful,” he said.