Our Immunology Research
Diseases in which the immune system plays a major role, including autoimmune disease, acute and chronic infections, and cancer, affect millions of people globally. Despite this, major gaps remain in our understanding of immune health, let alone the complexity of what goes wrong with the immune system in the setting of disease.
The Allen Institute for Immunology is focused on understanding the dynamic balancing act of the human immune system. On the one hand, the immune system must act aggressively to protect us against threats like viruses, bacteria and fungi. On the other, these responses must be exquisitely controlled to prevent overwhelming inflammation and autoimmune disease. Since the immune system interacts with every organ system in the body, understanding how it is activated and regulated has broad implications for all aspects of health and disease.
The Allen Institute for Immunology’s mission is to translate deep knowledge of the human immune system into discoveries that can improve human health and improve the understanding and treatment of immune-related diseases. We do this by utilizing innovative, cutting-edge technologies and advanced data analysis approaches to identify biomarkers of disease, new targets for therapeutic intervention, and novel diagnostic tools.
What we study
We focus on four major areas of the human immune system:
Autoimmunity (immune dysregulation)
Immune response to infection (including Covid-19)
Much of what we know today about the immune system was learned from animal models because historically, tools did not exist to study the human immune system in detail. With the advent of single-cell technologies and other new tools, we are now able to deeply study the human immune system at the level of individual cells. We have applied existing tools and developed new technologies to investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms of disease. Learn more about our approach.
We take a “pipeline” approach to our work, integrating clinical data, flow cytometry, single-cell RNA sequencing, single-cell epigenetics, and proteomics with computational analyses to deeply profile the human immune system in blood and tissue samples collected from study volunteers at multiple time points over multi-year longitudinal studies. Our approach allows us to capture variations in individual immune systems over time; variability between individuals in the same cohorts; and immune changes related to disease progression, stabilization, remission, responses to treatment, or immune challenges such as a vaccine.