First to See the Light

ST Announces Global Crowdsourcing Program for Polio Eradication

GREENWICH, Conn., Sept. 25, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Spencer Trask & Co., a privately held advanced technology development firm, today announced it has partnered with Rotary International and the World Health Organization (WHO) to crowdsource a global call-to-action for seeking innovative solutions to curtail the spread of online misinformation that is purposely thwarting efforts to eradicate polio in Pakistan. The three organizations have engaged crowdsourcing pioneer InnoCentive to oversee this challenge for each to (up to) three winning solutions (restrictions apply).

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), of which the WHO and Rotary are founding members, faces mounting challenges in Pakistan driven by technological advancement, specifically the increasing number of people seeking and sharing news via social media. Online rumors and blatant misinformation about polio vaccination has become a systemic problem—especially considering an estimated 200% increase in Internet usage since 2012 (according to Pakistan Telecom Authority), bringing a third of the country’s population into the digital age.

“There is a powerful collective intelligence to be harnessed through this platform. We believe it can bring fresh ideas to the teams working in the region, and help them complete their mission of eradicating polio,” said Kevin Kimberlin, Chairman of Spencer Trask & Co. and sponsor of the new crowdsourcing challenge.

“Rotary, the World Health Organization and our partners have made incredible progress in the fight to end polio, but right now we’re facing a perplexing challenge,” said Carol Pandak, Director of Rotary International’s PolioPlus program. “We look forward to working with Spencer Trask & Co. to crowdsource creative, innovative solutions to creating confidence in vaccines by combatting online rumors in Pakistan, one of the last two countries on earth that continue to report cases of the wild poliovirus.”

In 1952, polio reached epidemic proportions, paralyzing or killing more people than any other communicable disease in the United States. Polio is a dangerous, highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease that has no known cause but is preventable with a safe and effective vaccine. In 2017, only 8 cases of wild poliovirus were detected in Pakistan. However, since 2018, case counts have increased, with a total of 62 new cases reported in Pakistan this year.

To join in this collective effort please access the challenge at

Spencer Trask & Co., a privately held advanced technology development firm, helps entrepreneurs build high impact ventures that change the world. The firm was instrumental in launching leading companies in artificial intelligence, genomics, healthcare, mobile technology, and Internet infrastructure

Rotary International brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connect 1.2 million members from more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in almost every country in the world. Their service improves lives both locally and internationally, from helping those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Rotary is a founding partner of the GPEI, and has worked to support polio eradication efforts for more than 30 years.

The Immune Response Corporation

Revolution in Immunotherapy

DISCOVERY – Non-infectious viral vaccines.

INNOVATOR – In the history of medicine, few figures have had as profound an impact on human health and wellbeing as Dr. Jonas Salk. His polio vaccine breakthrough was the culmination of centuries of research, dating back to Louis Pasteur discovering inoculation. However, Salk’s method was different. He found a way to protect people from viruses without giving them the very disease the vaccine was designed to prevent.

Using this no-infection method, Salk worked with Kevin Kimberlin of Spencer Trask to develop cancer vaccines and an immunotherapeutic to slow or prevent AIDS. They patented and conducted preclinical studies on a cancer vaccine that demonstrated a startling 90% protection against lethal malignancies. 

IMPACT – A fusion of dendritic cells and the cancer antigen, their technology formed the basis for the first FDA-approved cell-based immunotherapy. Over 40,000 men with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer have received the treatment, and it appears especially effective for African-American men who receive a 48% improved survival benefit compared to white men.

The team and facility making this immunotherapy also made clinical and commercial supplies of the first approved gene therapy, the CAT-T drug Kymriah.

The first approved cell-base immunotherapy and gene therapy prompted the FDA Commissioner to say, “New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses.”

The noninfectious vaccine approach developed by Jonas Salk eliminated polio from the developed countries, his flu vaccine mitigated the effects of influenza for the past 75 years, and finally, the cancer vaccine developed at his Immune Response Corporation led the way to gene, cell-based, and immune therapy innovations that will impact human health for generations. In summary, Salk released the last step in enabling the most important preventative medicine – non-infectious viral vaccination.