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About ImmunoWars

  • Founders: Dennis de Beeld and Rafael Jezior
  • Founded in: 2019
  • Employees: 4
  • Money raised: 14,000 euros via crowdfunding
  • Ultimate goal: Using gamification and humor to help educate people better about infectious diseases, science and medicine.

ImmunoWars is a card game that deals with the battle between immune systems and diseases. In other words, you can eliminate your friends by attacking them with ebola, salmonella or cholera, to name but a few. The start-up wants to educate people in a playful way about which types of infections exist, and what you can and cannot do to cure yourself from them.

Founders Dennis de Beeld (24) and Rafael Jezior (29) are studying Life Science & Technology at Leiden University and have a lot to do with viruses, bacteria and cells. “It’s a daily war and festival in each and every cell, which is extremely interesting. But we also notice that a lot of people are completely unaware of that. With ImmunoWars, we want to show in a more understandable and entertaining way how that works,” De Beeld explains.

In this instalment of start-up of the day, the founders talk to us from their office at PLNT, a center for innovation and entrepreneurship in the city center of Leiden, about how they plan to change the world with their card game.

What is ImmunoWars?

De Beeld: “A deck of 108 playing cards that contains a mix of dark humor, entertainment, and scientifically accurate information is what make up the game. The goal is to eliminate your opponents by infecting them with viruses and bacteria-such as hepatitis, rabies, and influenza -and stay alive yourself by using vaccines, medications, as well as your own immune system. You will have mastered the game after just one or two games. Each of the players is, so to speak, a mad scientist who takes a side in the storytelling underpinning ImmunoWars. Either on the side of Mr. White, who is revolutionizing the medical world, or on the side of Mr. Black who is developing infectious diseases and bioweapons.”

Jezior: “The game has three different cards: attack, incident, and defense cards. Attack cards are the viruses and bacteria, there you can see which infectious disease is causing what, how contagious and curable they are, and what symptoms are associated with them. Defense cards allow you to protect yourself and your immune system by administering vaccines, medications, and technology to ward off an attack.”

What problem are you solving?

De Beeld: “When it comes to societal issues, you see that lack of understanding and disinformation are huge problems. Take the corona pandemic as an example. A lot of people don’t understand exactly what corona is, because it’s abstract. That leads to fear and resistance. We want to inform people and help them understand how it works.”

Jezior: “Look, scientists are brilliant, but they are often not very good at presenting themselves to the general public. We want to support them in that respect and repair the public’s distrust of science. As such, ImmunoWars wages war on fake news.”

How do you plan to reach a target audience that has no interest in science?

Jezior: “With humor! Instead of saying in a patronizing tone: ‘this is how it works’, we use humor. If you start a conversation about corona using logic and arguments, you won’t solve anything. It’s often an emotional problem, people are scared because they don’t really understand what the virus is and does. Apart from that, we also rely heavily on visuals and strategic game elements to tempt people to play our game.”

Where are you now and where do you want to be in five years from now?

De Beeld: “Our first print run involved two thousand games. More than half of those have been sold now. We have also released an extension featuring 32 STD cards, the STD Booster Pack. We soon plan to go ahead with an Into The Wild edition about fungi and parasites, and even a family edition in the future, so parents can play it with their kids well. We’ve got so many ideas.”

What are you most proud of?

Jezior: “There are tons of games and there’s also an awful lot of science out there, but there aren’t that many science games. We’ve combined the two and are getting really positive feedback from both quarters. I’m really proud of that.”

De Beeld: “When we see a photo pop up of people playing our game, without any input from us. That friends, colleagues, families, and total strangers play ImmunoWars on a fun evening is something I find very inspiring to see.”

On September 17, ImmunoWars will be present at the Nacht van Ontdekkingen (Night of Discoveries) in Leiden’s city center.