Determining the Components of the Immune System
The Human Immunome Program is a large-scale, open-source effort seeking to fill a major gap in our knowledge of the immune system. The power of the immune system to fight disease lies in its ability recognize and adapt to an astonishing range of threats from viruses, parasites and bacteria to cancer cells. Underlying this ability is a vast but specific set of genes and molecular structures known as the human immunome, or the “parts list” of the immune system.
Determining the core parts of the immune system could transform how we diagnose, prevent and treat disease though the identification of new biomarkers while enabling highly targeted, computationally designed vaccines and therapies that reduce time and risk of product development.
The human immunome is vast, estimated at 100 billion times larger than the Human Genome Project in terms of data output. Because of this scale, scientists have never been able to characterize the core parts by which the immune system adapts to and fights disease. It is only recently that dramatic advances in sequencing technologies and bioinformatics capacity make uncovering the human immunome possible for the first time.
Scientifically, the immunome is defined as the underlying genes that make up adaptive receptors on the surface of human B and T cells. Under a targeted 7-to-10-year effort, the program will sequence these receptors from a group of globally diverse individuals, and determine the structure and function of a key subset of receptors. Through an open-source approach, this data will be made available to researchers across the world.
The Human Immunome Program is led by Dr. James Crowe, Director of the Vanderbilt University Vaccine Center.