Cracking the COVID-19 ImmuneCODE™

Adaptive COVID-19 ImmuneResponse Animation Still

An Open Data initiative to share one of the largest, most detailed views of the immune response to COVID-19.

Our adaptive immune system has honed its capability to detect and treat pathogens over millions of years. In the current coronavirus pandemic, our immune system is front and center in this fight, with some people faring better than others. When different immune cells recognize “foreign” signals, such as those coming from a pathogenic virus or bacteria, they activate a set of defenses to try to keep us healthy. After fighting off an infection, our immune system also keeps a memory of how it responded to that pathogen so that it can help to protect us from reinfection in the future.

Our ability to understand the adaptive immune response is particularly important now as the scientific community works towards solutions for COVID-19. Adaptive Biotechnologies has spent many years developing an immune medicine platform to be able to study the adaptive immune response with speed, scale, and precision. We have recently focused the capabilities of this platform towards the immune response to COVID-19.

How is Adaptive’s approach different? While most efforts to look at the immune response are focused on the B cell, which produces antibodies, or the virus itself, this approach focuses on the T cell. T cells are the adaptive immune system’s first responders to any virus, circulating in the blood to detect and quickly multiply to attack the virus, often before symptoms appear. Adaptive and Microsoft are generating years of data in just three months to accurately map the T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2, from initial exposure through clearance. The purpose of this work, which includes an enormous data set of thousands of de-identified samples, is to:

  • Determine the specific pieces of the virus our T cells recognize and respond to; and
  • Characterize the broad adaptive immune T-cell response across thousands of samples combined from organizations around the globe and from ImmuneRACE (Immune Response Action to COVID-19 Events), the virtual clinical study launched in May. ImmuneRACE is collecting samples from individuals that were exposed, acutely infected, or recovered from the virus at the time of collection.

Alongside our partner Microsoft, we will be analyzing these data as an extension of our TCR-Antigen Map Project. We are also sharing this dataset publicly to enable efforts by researchers around the world looking at this virus in different ways. Such solutions may include development of diagnostics, vaccines or therapies, or monitoring the effectiveness of treatment response.

Today marks the first release of what will become a much larger dataset over time: highlights of our earliest data focused on the virus itself. These data identify regions of the virus that are commonly targeted by T cells and includes more than 9,000 T-cell receptors (TCRs) mapped to these hotspots. Future releases will extend this story to the adaptive immune responses seen within and across thousands of individuals.