Adaptive Biotechnology is taking a different approach to treating diseases like COVID-19. Instead of “starting from scratch,” they’re working from information that is already encoded in our genetic material. According to the leaders of this company, the human immune system is “nature’s most finely-tuned diagnostic and therapeutic.” Not only does our immune system target and attack foreign cells with astonishing efficiency, but it also contains an entire database of information that can help us learn more about these diseases.
Encoded in our DNA is a library of knowledge that contains information about every disease we’ve ever had, from the common flu to a severe case of Ebola. The problem is that until very recently, we couldn’t translate that biological, genetic data into information that our medical community can easily analyze and use.
Using AI, Adaptive Biotechnologies is genetically sequencing and decoding information contained within immune systems. Using this information, they plan to create more precise and efficient ways to diagnose and treat various diseases, including COVID-19. When researchers at this company see how the immune system fights various diseases, it can become easier to create treatments that mimic these effective approaches.
Above all else, Adaptive Biotechnologies is searching for neutralizing antibodies – special antibodies that are incredibly effective at combating diseases and viruses. Once they find the very best neutralizing antibodies, they’ll collaborate with other researchers to create antibody therapies that could be even more effective than a vaccine. The theory is pretty simple: find so-called “superhumans” with strong immune systems capable of fighting off COVID-19 without a scratch, and then replicate those same immune responses within more vulnerable individuals.
Sequencing genomes associated with immune responses isn’t a new concept, and Adaptive Biotechnologies aren’t the only ones who are engaged in this approach. However, this company has exhibited an ability to “translate” the immune system at an almost unparalleled speed while maintaining accuracy and precision.
In order to push the sequencing process to the edge of technological limits, Adaptive Biotechnologies partnered with Microsoft to implement AI systems, speeding up the entire process. It all revolves around mapping trillions of T cell receptors in the immune system. These cells contain all the information the human body needs to fight off every disease that the body has encountered in the past.
Of course, not everyone has the same immune system response to the same disease. While mapping one person’s T cell receptors involves sequencing and translating tons of data, researchers are also adding new “signature immune responses” every time they analyze a new individual.
The end goal is to create a simple, quick test that would reveal someone’s entire immune system history, complete with every disease a person has fought, and how their immune system reacted.