LJI has a rich history of conducting cutting edge research into how bacteria and viruses cause disease. Almost all LJI biologists—whether they work specifically on infectious disease or not—are keenly interested in how the many arms of the immune system recognize, react and “remember” invading agents.
In this effort, many LJI scientists conduct pre-clinical studies relevant to design and optimize vaccines to combat infectious diseases like tuberculosis or dengue virus. Historically, many vaccines have been designed to evoke an antibody response by B cells following inoculation with weakened or dead pathogens. However, these approaches still have some inherent risks, and therefore LJI vaccine experts are experimenting with the use of short fragments of pathogens to stimulate immunity.
These pathogen bits, usually composed of protein or fragments or sugars, are called “epitopes.” A primary goal of vaccine development is to identify viral or bacterial epitopes that will elicit an immune response strong enough to establish a cadre of B and T cells that have ‘memory’ to protect us when they encounter the real thing.
Thus it is fitting that LJI is also home to the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB), the world’s largest catalogue of pathogen components that mobilize those T cell or B cell responses. The IEDB serves as a freely available resource for scientists both at LJI and worldwide who are searching for new cures and preventions for infection or allergy.