February 14, 2019

For the first time ever, researchers are comprehensively sequencing the human immune system, which is billions of times larger than the human genome. In a new study published in Nature from the Human Vaccines Project, scientists have sequenced a key part of this vast and mysterious system -- the genes encoding the circulating B cell receptor repertoire.

Sequencing these receptors in both adults and infants, the scientists found surprising overlaps that could provide potential new antibody targets for vaccines and therapeutics that work across populations. As part of a large multi-year initiative, this work seeks to define the genetic underpinnings of people's ability to respond and adapt to an immense range of disease.

Led by scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the San Diego Supercomputer Center, this advancement is possible due to the merging of biological research with high-powered frontier supercomputing. While the Human Genome Project sequenced the human genome and led to the development of novel genomics tools, it did not tackle the size and complexity of the human immune system.

Read more here.