Microsoft latest launch with Adaptive Biotechnologies share a population-wide immune response to the COVID-19 virus

Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp. has launched ImmuneCODE with technology company, 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 recognise unique features of the COVID-19 virus, called antigens, with unprecedented speed and scale. 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.

“In just a few months, Adaptive and Microsoft intend to generate data for ImmuneCODE sufficient to accurately map how the adaptive immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2 from initial exposure through clearance by using our combined immune medicine platform and machine learning, potentially providing an accurate assessment of immunity,” said Harlan Robins, chief scientific officer and co-founder of Adaptive Biotechnologies.

“The scale and precision with which we are now able to decode the T cell response to the virus may fundamentally change our ability to recover from this pandemic and the way in which all viruses are studied in the future.”

Thousands of de-identified geographically and ethnically diverse patient blood samples from institutions around the world are being collected and analysed alongside samples from ImmuneRACE (Immune Response Action to COVID-19 Events), the companies’ prospective study enrolling 1,000 participants across the US to decode how immune systems detect and respond to the virus.

Using Microsoft Azure’s hyper-scale cloud and machine learning capabilities, the T cell response signature will be continuously refined by extending the number of matches of COVID-19-related T cells to antigens and directly associating this T cell signature with disease and outcomes.

“Adaptive Biotechnologies’ sequencing of T-cells sets up an extremely large but manageable machine learning problem, and thus makes it possible, for the first time, to catalogue and share how our adaptive immune system responds to viruses, including the novel virus that causes COVID-19,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president, Microsoft Research and Incubation.

“Making these data freely available to the global research community through the ImmuneCODE database will deepen our collective understanding of the human immune response and thereby help researchers accelerate the development of new drugs and vaccines in the fight against this global health crisis.”

Although most efforts to look at the immune response are focused on the B cell or the virus itself, this approach is different because it focuses on the T cell. T cells are the adaptive immune system’s first responders to detect any virus.

They quickly multiply and circulate in the blood to attack the virus, often before symptoms appear. Amongst many other jobs, T cells also recruit B cells to produce antibodies after about a week or two to potentially provide immunity against future infection.

To date, testing for COVID-19 has either been in the form of a viral test to detect the presence of the virus or a serology test to detect the presence of antibodies to signal prior infection. An in-depth understanding of the T cell response to the COVID-19 virus has a variety of different applications.

That in-depth understanding may improve accuracy in the existing testing paradigm or potentially provide an assessment of immunity. Additionally, it is possible that identifying and tracking T cell response may provide insight as to the severity of a patient’s illness, the length of any post-infection immunity period, and the potential efficacy of vaccines in development.

As Adaptive generates these data, subsequent updates to ImmuneCODE will provide an increasingly clearer picture of the immune response to the COVID-19 virus. This includes analysing the immune responses from thousands of infected individuals, linking T cell responses to viral antigens and patient outcomes, and tracking the immune response. In addition to making these data freely available, Adaptive is conducting its own research to develop a new kind of diagnostic looking specifically at the T cell response to the COVID-19 virus.

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