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. Health challenges in the 21st century are much more complex and difficult.
Diseases from HIV to tuberculosis and pandemic influenza to cancer, have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to evade or subvert our immune responses. Additionally, populations such as the elderly and those in developing countries, who are most at risk for disease, have poorer response to vaccination.
To conquer these complex disease issues, scientists need an understanding of the common rules of the human immune system. New vaccines and therapeutics must work for all populations. Previously, scientific tools to understand human immunity and its rules were insufficient. Advances during the past five years in biomedicine, bioengineering, bioinformatics, and machine learning have unlocked potential 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:
- What are the rules for generating specific immune responses against disease?
- 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 will 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.