By Christin Ayers

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A Bay Area start-up trying to develop a free vaccine to end HIV and AIDS is using crowd sourcing to fund the project.

“I have been really interested in this really marvelous story about HIV controllers, people who become infected with HIV, but somehow don’t progress to develop AIDS,” Dr. Reid Rubsamen of the Immunity Project said.

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The idea is to mimic that response in a lab setting, using technology Rubsamen invented at his company Flow Pharma.

But, Immunity Project’s aim is to give the results of the research away for free.

“People in most need of an HIV vaccine are desperately poor, and it’s got to be available at no cost,” he said.

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Decades of failure in the search for an HIV vaccine have made the Immunity Project an unlikely candidate for government funding, so they have broken tradition, and appealed to the general public through a crowd funding drive, raising nearly half a million dollars.

But, one critic questions whether that’s appropriate for something as complicated as AIDS research.

“There’s nobody who is there to scrutinize the research. Anybody could go out and do crowd source funding for anything that they wish for. It’s not based on any reality,” AIDS patient Matt Sharp told KPIX 5.

But, Rubsamen was optimistic about the funding, and its potential for other vaccines.

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“Look, this is a new vaccine delivery approach. It could be applicable to other diseases. It’s conceivable that it could be,” Rubsamen said.