LIAI finding gives boost to bioinformatics use in fighting disease

SAN DIEGO (June 16, 2006) The use of computers to advance human disease research known as bioinformatics -- has received a major boost from researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (LIAI), who have used it to successfully predict immune response to one of the most complex viruses known to man the vaccinia virus, which is used in the smallpox vaccine. Immune responses, which are essentially how the body fights a disease-causing agent, are a crucial element of vaccine development.

"We are excited because this further validates the important role that bioinformatics can play in the development of diagnostic tools and ultimately vaccines," said Alessandro Sette, Ph.D., an internationally known vaccine expert and head of LIAI's Emerging Infectious Disease and Biodefense Center. "We've shown that it can successfully reveal with a very high degree of accuracy -- the vast majority of the epitopes (targets) that would trigger an effective immune response against a complex pathogen."

Bioinformatics holds significant interest in the scientific community because of its potential to move scientific research forward more quickly and at less expense than traditional laboratory testing.

The findings were published this week in a paper, "A consensus epitope prediction approach identifies the breadth of murine TCD8+-cell responses to vaccinia virus," in the online version of the journal Nature Biotechnology. LIAI scientist Magdalini Moutaftsi was the lead author on the paper.

While bioinformatics which uses computer databases, algorithms and statistical techniques to analyze biological information -- is already in use as a predictor of immune response, the LIAI research team's findings were significant because they demonstrated an extremely high rate of prediction accuracy (95 percent) in a very complex pathogen the vaccinia virus. The vaccinia virus is a non-dangerous virus used in the smallpox vaccine because i

Contact: Bonnie Ward
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology

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