More than 1.8 million people die of HIV-related causes each year—approximately 5,000 deaths per day. HIV is a particularly significant threat in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. Researchers in South Africa and Boston are working with Microsoft Research to fight HIV. The effort is led by Bruce Walker, director of the Ragon Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, and a professor of medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is joined by David Heckerman, Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft Research, who explains that as our immune system tries to block HIV, the virus mutates to evade the immune system.
The researchers are cataloging fragments of HIV that are vulnerable to attack by the immune system. The amount of data generated is enormous, but by using thousands of Microsoft machines working in parallel, researchers are able to make computations in a matter of hours that would take years on a single computer. Through research like this, Walker believes that a solution to the HIV epidemic can be developed. Like many other dedicated researchers, he is devoting his career to finding such a solution.