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The Human Vaccines Project, Vanderbilt and Illumina join forces to decode the human immunome

Apr. 11, 2017, 8:47 AM


The Human Vaccines Project and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) announced this week that they joined forces with Illumina Inc. to decipher the human immunome, the genetic underpinnings of the immune system.

Illumina will provide the genetic sequencing technologies and expertise required to process the massive amounts of data required to decode the human immunome.

James Crowe Jr., M.D.

The Human Vaccines Project is a public-private partnership of academic research centers, industry, non-profits and government agencies that aims to decode the human immune system to accelerate development of next-generation vaccines and immunotherapies. A core initiative of the Project is the Human Immunome Program, an internationally led effort by Vanderbilt University Medical Center to determine key principles of how the human immune system prevents and controls disease by illuminating the complete set of genes and molecular structures known as the human immunome.

“By decoding the human immune system, we have the potential to uncover novel diagnostic biomarkers for a wide range of diseases,” said James Crowe Jr., M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center and lead investigator of the Human Immunome Program. “This will enable the development of highly targeted vaccines and immunotherapies against infectious and non-communicable diseases like AIDS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and cancer.”

Due to its scale and complexity, the human immunome is estimated to be billions of times larger than the human genome. With recent technological advances from biomedical and computational sciences, it is now possible to undertake such a mammoth genetic sequencing and data analysis program.

“We are very pleased to collaborate with the Human Vaccines Project, Vanderbilt and its partners, by bringing Illumina’s state-of-the-art genetic sequencing and bioinformatics technologies to help solve this major challenge,” said Gary Schroth, Ph.D., vice president for Product Development at Illumina. “Successfully defining the human immunome will provide foundational knowledge and has the potential to usher in a new era of vaccine, diagnostic and therapeutic development.”

“Illumina’s involvement exemplifies the value of public-private partnerships in advancing medical science,” said Wayne Koff, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project. “Collaboration offers significant opportunity to harness the human immune system and transform our ability to fight disease across the globe.”

The launch of the Project’s Human Immunome Program was announced in June 2016. The long-term global study, which is coordinated by the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, will genetically sequence the receptors from B and T immune cells from individuals varied by age, gender, genetics, geography and disease states. Results will be shared as an open-sourced database to the global scientific community.

“Sequencing the human immunome is the next frontier of genetic medicine. This important collaboration with the Human Vaccines Project and Illumina marks an exciting step in Vanderbilt’s distinguished history and leadership in vaccine research and personalized medicine. Insights about the genetic underpinnings of the human immune system gained from this study will help guide future generations of biomarker and therapeutic development,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

This multi-institutional effort is also supported by the Human Vaccines Project Bioinformatics and Data Management Core, located at the J. Craig Venter Institute and the San Diego Super Computer Center at the University of California, San Diego. The Core will analyze the enormous data sets generated by the effort.

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