Exterior of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. Image from the institute's brochure
Exterior of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. Image from the institute’s brochure

The La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology will share in an $18 million grant to study the human immune system’s response to dengue virus and tuberculosis, both of which are major global health challenges.

The grant will support the collection, shipping, and processing of thousands of samples from a network of clinical sites in Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Peru and Sweden. Employing samples from such a geographically and ethnically diverse populatios will ensure that conclusions drawn from the research are broadly applicable.

“Advances in technology and data analysis have given us sophisticated tools to study the activity of the human immune system across diverse populations in unprecedented depth,” said Mitchell Kronenberg, president and chief scientific officer of the institute, adding that the grant “provides us with the opportunity to unleash the full force of our collective scientific expertise and technological capabilities to trace what are the elements that make up an effective immune response.”

A team led by the institute’s Alessandro Sette is one of four that will share the grant as part of the Human Immune Profiling Consortium under the direction of the National Institutes of Health.

The consortium will identify groups of genes expressed in T cells, a key white blood cell type, associated with protection from or susceptibility to the two diseases.

“By comparing and contrasting the gene expression signatures associated with disease and protection from disease, we will better understand what kind of immune responses vaccines should induce in order to be protective,” said Bjoern Peters, an associate professor at the institute who is spearheading the tuberculosis project in addition to performing the bioinformatics analysis for both pathogens.

The La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology was founded in 1988 as an independent, nonprofit research organization.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.