Vanderbilt University, Human Vaccines Project partner to decode human immune system

The hope is that the study's results will provide insights on basic human immunology to help the next-generation of vaccinations.
By Jessica Davis
10:58 AM

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center have begun recruiting volunteers to participate in a clinical trial that will decode the immune system through the immunome – the genetic backbone of the immune system.

This is the first phase of a global effort led by the Human Vaccines Project – a collaborative effort of academic research centers, industry, nonprofits and government agencies – to expand the development of new vaccines and immunotherapies. The organization will fund the project.

"For the first time we have the technological tools to undertake such an ambitious project to decode the human immune system," said Wayne C. Koff, president and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project in a statement.

"As the Human Genome Project has ushered in a new era in precision medicine, the Human Vaccines Project has the potential to enable a new era of vaccine and immunotherapeutic development against some of the world's most pressing diseases," he added.

For the first part of the study, two healthy volunteers will undergo leukapheresis: a blood donation process where large numbers of white blood cells are filtered out of the body and the red blood cells are returned to the patient.

Researchers will thoroughly examine all white blood cell receptors, the result of which will create the foundation for further studies with even more volunteers. Once completed, the study will expand to 100 subjects from varying backgrounds.

The researchers hope the study's results will provide insights on basic human immunology to help the next-generation of vaccinations.

The number of sequences acquired from them could be in the billions and will constitute the first detailed account of the immunome, said James Crowe Jr., MD, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, in a statement.

"The Project remains committed to rapid, open source communication of these data, to enable the community of global scientists to advance new and fundamental insights on how the human immune system can be mobilized more effectively to fight disease," he added.

Crowe and other Vanderbilt researchers will work alongside the Human Vaccines Project researchers at one of its scientific hubs in La Jolla, California, which includes the J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, University of California, San Diego and the Scripps Research Institute.

The J. Craig Venter Institute and the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego will be the global bioinformatics core of the project.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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