One can think of the rapid growth of genome sequencing as producing a special kind of exhaust in the form immunologically relevant data that has accumulated in large quantities in databases around the world.
Those databases can be mined. Immunoinformatics is emerging as an important tool at the intersection of experimental immunology and various computational approaches that include immunomics, a new discipline that uses high throughput techniques to understand the immune system mechanism. Applications include vaccination and immune system modeling using in silico methods of rapid iteration that are outside the en vivo environment where a network of thousands of molecules can interact to create unpredictable responses and adverse consequences. Other areas include reverse vaccinology that analyses the pathogen genome to identify potential antigenic proteins. And cancer diagnosis and therapy also benefit from R&D budgets that include the use of immunoinformatics.
Another term for immunoinformatics is computational immunology. Some have described computational immunology as a branch of bioinformatics that includes fields of research such as sequence alignment and protein structure prediction tools.
Adaptive Biotechnologies, a Seattle, Washington-based public company, completed an IPO in 2019 based on immunoinformatics technology. Its immune medicine platform applies proprietary technologies to read the genetic code of a patient’s immune system and understand precisely how it detects and treats disease in that patient. Adaptive’s technology captures these insights in a clinical immunomics database, which is underpinned by computational biology and machine learning and uses it to develop and commercialize clinical products and services that are tailoring to each individual patient.
According to the company, immune-driven medicine is one of the largest global addressable markets in healthcare. It estimates the potential market opportunity for its portfolio to be greater than $48 billion, including research products, clinical diagnostics and cellular therapies. Adaptive believes this market will grow over time as clinicians increasingly appreciate the importance of the immune system in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and as its pipeline of products and services expands.
Adaptive recently launched ImmuneCODE with Microsoft Corp. to begin sharing one of the largest, most detailed views of the immune response to COVID-19 in real time based on de-identified data generated from thousands of COVID-19 blood samples from patients around the globe. The open database contains detailed information on the extraordinarily diverse set of T cells shown to specifically recognize unique features of the COVID-19 virus, called antigens. T cells contain a treasure trove of information that could provide one consistent and trackable measure of the immune response. This could help diagnose and manage COVID-19 from exposure through clearance of the virus, and potentially offer an accurate assessment of immunity. Data from ImmuneCODE will accelerate ongoing global efforts to develop better diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics and answer important questions about the virus to support initiatives to safely reopen society.