Determining the Rules of the Human Immune System
The Rules of Immunity Program seeks to understand the common rules of how the immune system fights disease across global populations, and use those rules to accelerate the development of new vaccines and therapeutics to fight existing infectious diseases, emerging pandemics and cancers.
During the past century, vaccines have been one of the most important health interventions, yet most successful vaccines targeted diseases that were relatively simple from a biological perspective. Our 21st century health challenges are much more complex and difficult.
Diseases from HIV, tuberculosis and pandemic influenza to cancers have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to evade or subvert our immune responses, while populations such as the elderly and those in the developing countries, which are most at risk for disease, have poorer responses to vaccination.
To conquer these complex diseases, scientists will need an understanding of the common rules of the human immune system, and to ensure that new vaccines and therapeutics work for all populations. Previously, we never had the scientific tools to understand human immunity and its rules. Advances during the past five years in biomedicine, bioengineering and bioinformatics and machine learning have opened up brand-new possibilities to understand and decode the human immune system.
The Rules of Immunity Program is a large-scale clinical research initiative focused on infectious diseases and cancers that seeks to address two of the central questions of human immunity: 1) What are the rules for generating specific immune responses against disease? and 2) What are the rules for generating long-lasting immunity against disease?
Clinical studies under this program will include extensive immunological and systems biology analyses, and seek to understand immune responses across globally diverse populations from infants to the elderly. To develop clear policy and ethics frameworks to expedite these human immunology-based clinical research studies we have received funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
This program is currently led by Dr. Wayne C. Koff, CEO of the Human Vaccines Project.