Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection

Getting serious about the immune system

Spearheading the body’s defense, the immune system launches tightly orchestrated attacks. With rapid-fire precision, it relays complex information across the body, uniting diverse tissues and cells in a single mission.

 

Similarly, the Stanford School of Medicine’s Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection unites a diverse group of experts — blending clinicians, engineers, researchers and educators — to probe the basic biology of the immune system. They use this information to develop new vaccines, improve organ transplantation and treat autoimmune disease.

More than 100 investigators are affiliated with the institute, which grew up around the Human Immune Monitoring Center. The HIMC, launched in 2007, provides a comprehensive analysis of immune system functioning using genomics, screening services and immunoassays.

“The HIMC fills a critical need,” says institute director Mark Davis, PhD. “It is becoming increasingly apparent that the immune system is involved in almost every disease, but getting and interpreting this type of data has previously been limited to specialists.”

The HIMC ensures these tools are available to the Stanford community, Davis says.

The institute fosters the development of young researchers through grant opportunities, networking alliances and educational programs, including a summer program for high school students interested in medical research. It also operates the immunology graduate program.

One of its major goals is to revolutionize the immunology care given to average people. For example, Davis says he looks forward to the day when patients will be able to stroll into their doctor’s office and ask about the health of their immune system, just as patients today ask about their blood pressure.

That type of transformation may be possible thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative teamwork that thrives at the institute, says Cristina Tato, PhD, a research and science analyst with the institute. “We really try to leverage all of the experience of Stanford Medicine by bringing together top experts to solve problems,” she says. “It’s such an amazing organization.”

For more information, visit http://iti.stanford.edu/.

Becky Bach is a media relations/digital media specialist for the medical school's Office of Communication & Public Affairs. Email her at retrout@stanford.edu.

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