Data Management Systems for Immune Response Genetics

Jamie Scott


Vaccines and therapeutic antibodies work by manipulating a patient’s immune response, and yet little is known about the genetics that control individual variation in immune response in healthy and sick individuals; such information is critical to designing therapeutics and vaccines according to the goals of personalized medicine. A major challenge in immunology has been to understand the factors that control variation in the staggeringly complex repertoires of antibodies that the body produces during disease. In the last few years this research has been greatly aided by next generation sequencing techniques that make it affordable to determine hundreds of millions of sequences from any given individual, such as the antibodies produced in the early stages of HIV infection. Managing these massive amounts of data for a given project, or allowing comparison between similar data sets (e.g., the response to early HIV versus early HCV infection) is daunting. PRISM will support scientific gateways for depositing and analyzing such massive data sets from other PRISM immunology projects (see Saskatchewan HIV vaccine project below). The scientific gateway will be opened to other researchers who are using next generation sequencing to produce data on these repertoires, and struggling with storage and analysis of such data. Only by combining such datasets in a way that facilitates comparison will it be possible to use these data to understand the causes of individual variation in the immune response, and use this understanding to guide personalized medicine approaches to vaccine and therapeutic antibody design. This project is both timely and unique. High-throughput, next generation sequencing is only now being applied to immune repertoires and no other group is building a publicly-available repository for the comparison of such repertoires across populations and diseases. Antibody comparisons will potentially direct vaccine and therapeutic antibody design, and thus prove a valuable resource for these sectors of Canada’s pharmaceutical industry.