What's in Your Blood: Systems Analysis on Human Antibody Immunity

George Georgiou, Ph.D.

Professor, Cockrell Family Regent's Chair in Engineering
Departments of Chemical Engineering,
Biomedical Engineering and
Molecular Genetics and Biology
University of Texas, Austin

Monday, September 10, 2012
Lecture at 4:00 PM
1227 Engineering Hall
1415 Engineering Drive

Refreshments at 3:30 PM Lobby Engineering Hall

Antibodies are present in blood at high concentrations (about 10 mg/ml) and are critical for defense against pathogens; in fact the main mechanism of protection to infection elicited by nearly all approved vaccines is the production of circulating antibodies that bind to, and neutralize the pathogen. The human immune system can generate well over 1012 different antibodies, yet only a relatively small set (which we estimate is of the order of 104 antibody proteins) are present in the blood of an individual at any time.

Remarkably, more than 100 years since the discovery of antibodies, it is only possible to determine whether an individual has an antibody response to a pathogen (say, HIV or srep tests) but not the numbers, specific amino acid sequences, relative amounts or biological functions of the pathogen-specific antibodies produced in that person. Understanding the nature of antibodies elicited by disease or vaccination is very important for therapeutic and prophylactic purposes.
We have now developed a technology for the deconvolution of the individual antibodies in blood. Examples showing how the molecular analysis of human immune responses is providing unique insights on vaccination, the discovery of therapeutic antibodies and on the basic understanding of human immunology.

George Georgiou

George Georgiou is the Cockrell Family Regent's Chair in Engineering. He joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin in 1986. He earned his doctoral degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University in 1987. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Microbiology and has received numerous international awards. Georgiou has developed several protein-based therapies for diseases, including co-developing the leading approach under consideration for treatment of inhaled anthrax. The approach is undergoing clinical evaluation by Elusys Therapeutics Inc. before it is considered for Food and Drug Administration review to become an approved treatment. Other research currently in progress includes the engineering of antibodies for protection against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the discovery of proteins that can treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. His group is also developing generic technologies for accelerating the discovery and production of protein drugs.