When the immune system encounters a bacterium or a virus, it zeroes in on tiny molecular features, so called epitopes, which allow cells of the immune system to distinguish between closely related foreign invaders and focus their attack. Such information is critical to researchers attempting to design new or improved vaccines against infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and new treatments for autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
Led by researchers at La Jolla Institute since its inception in 2003, the IEDB gives biomedical researchers free access to the world’s largest collection of epitopes and related scientific data. The IEDB also provides predictive tools that allow researchers to make epitope predictions, particularly useful for those cases in which new infectious agents arise or identifying epitopes in cases where they have not been defined by experiments. The website has become an invaluable resource to immunologists worldwide and registers hundreds of visiting scientists every day. In 2012, the National Institutes of Health awarded the Institute a $22 million, seven-year contract renewal to continue its role as host and developer of the IEDB.