Microsoft is teaming up with a $5 billion Seattle biotech to unravel the mystery of how the immune system responds to the coronavirus, and it could help with vaccine development
The range of symptoms and disease severity from the novel coronavirus remains largely a mystery to doctors and researchers.
Microsoft is working with the Seattle-based biotech Adaptive Biotechnologies to better understand the different ways that individuals' immune systems respond to the virus.
The duo are now recruiting 1,000 people for a study that will analyze T cells, a critical component in how human bodies fight invading threats.
The early research could help build T-cell tests, which could supplement antibody testing. It could also better instruct vaccines and therapeutics that are now in development.
"What we're developing is a third pillar of diagnostics, which is looking specifically at the T cells," said Lance Baldo, chief medical officer of Adaptive Biotechnologies.
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The novel coronavirus has confounded doctors by causing a range of symptoms in patients.
COVID-19 is first and foremost a lung disease, but its effects can include blood clots , heart problems , and even 'COVID toes' that turn purple and swollen. Some patients have mild symptoms, and others get severely ill.
Plus, some of the most critically ill patients appear to suffer more from their own immune response than from the virus itself. The immune system goes into hyperdrive, overreacting to the virus and causing serious damage to the person's own body.
Researchers are now trying to unravel the mysteries about the immune system's response to the coronavirus. A better understanding of how humans react to the virus could instruct future diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
The technology giant Microsoft has jumped into this work , focusing on a part of the immune response not frequently talked about — at least not yet — with COVID-19: T cells.
Microsoft is working with Adaptive Biotechnologies, a Seattle biotech specializing in decoding immune responses. Adaptive has a market value of about $4.7 billion.
The duo are hoping that better understanding the T-cell response in humans could be help understand and fight the virus. Microsoft will help crunch the massive amount of collected data using its machine learning capabilities and Azure cloud platform.
The two started working together in 2018 to develop a T-cell blood test that could detect multiple diseases, such as Lyme disease. While that work is ongoing, the companies expanded the agreement in March to include COVID-19.
Antibodies have been a research focus for COVID-19 testing, therapeutics, and vaccines
Antibodies have been the star of the show, hogging much of the early attention. These virus-fighting proteins have been known by scientists for more than a century. Going back to the 1918 influenza pandemic , they are the key ingredient in the treatment called convalescent plasma, which helps the sick recover.