A local scientist’s winning concept to cure HIV and Aids is taking him to the USA, where he will rub shoulders with industry leaders and learn how to solve one of the world’s biggest problems.

Last week Dr. Nick Walker won the first South African Global Impact Competition with a concept that uses a stem cell bank to process, edit, store and disperse stem cells to cure HIV and Aids. “My interest in the pioneering research into gene editing for curing HIV/AIDS, currently underway around the world, led me to consider the next steps once this research results in a replicable therapy,” says Walker. “This interest, combined with my experience in the industry of processing and storing umbilical cord blood, resulted in the idea of a large-scale bank with the necessary facilities to process and store the vast amount of stem cells that would make this potential treatment for HIV/AIDS feasible.”

The Global Impact Competition looks for innovative projects to solve some of the world’s biggest problems through technology within the next five to 10 years. These problems include disaster resilience, energy, governance, health and water, among some others. The brainchild of the Silicon Valley-based Singularity University that aims to launch businesses that will change the world of tomorrow, the inaugural South African leg of the competition had 48 entries.

Singularity University was founded in 2008 by Dr Peter H. Diamandis, Founder and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation and International Space University (ISU) and Ray Kurzweil, futurist, author, and a Director of Engineering at Google.

Walker developed his concept while working for Johannesburg-based stem cell storage bank, Next Biosciences. It’s CEO, Kim Hulett, says that Walker’s proposal presents a fascinating vision of stem cell banking and therapy. “We are immensely excited about the opportunity that has been granted to Dr Walker, and are fully supportive of his endeavours as he explores his idea through the Global Solutions Programme,” she says.

As the winner, Walker will soon head to Singularity University where he will attend an intensive 10-week entrepreneurship workshop. And on his return he will be supported by a business incubator established by both Rand Merchant and First National Bank.

“The opportunity to meet with, and potentially work with, the leaders of this field is thrilling, and I am humbled by this recognition of my concept,” he says. “Contributing to finding a potential cure for HIV/AIDS, in any small way, with these colleagues would be an indescribable honour.”

Source: Press Release

Image credit: Cell Health Institute