Data science detectives

A letter from LJI Professor, President & CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., MBA
Profile photo of LJI Professor, President, and CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., MBA
LJI Professor, President & CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., MBA

Here’s a scientific mystery for you: How is it that two people can receive a carefully controlled, identical dose of the same vaccine—and yet have a 100-fold difference in their immune response to that vaccine? 

We see differences in individual immune responses in study after study, and on topic after topic. Think of cases in which a promising cancer immunotherapy helps only a fraction of patients, or cases where an entire household catches COVID-19. They are infected with the same strain, but some family members are severely ill while others barely notice. 

To truly understand—and combat—all diseases, we need to understand the complicated interplay of age, sex, genetics, vaccination history, and other variables that affect the immune system. That is why scientists at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) are on a mission to gather and analyze valuable immune system data to crystallize new ways forward. 

Our Spring 2024 issue of Immune Matters highlights the brilliant scientists who make LJI a data science and bioinformatics powerhouse. [Read the cover story] Thanks to their hard work, researchers can quickly comb through mountains of experimental data, uncover hidden trends, and predict individual immune responses to vaccines, therapies, and emerging diseases. 

In fact, by harnessing data science, scientists in LJI’s Center for Sex-Based Differences in the Immune System have already discovered clues to why men and women experience many diseases, such as asthma, differently. We’re now coordinating with Women’s Health Access Matters (WHAM), founded by LJI Board Member Carolee Lee, to contribute our findings to the new White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research

LJI supporters have made much of this work possible. You have donated funding, resources, time—and sometimes even blood—so we can study the smallest details of the immune system. Every experiment and every dataset brings us closer to Life Without Disease. 


Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., MBA 

Professor, President & CEO 

La Jolla Institute for Immunology

Training the best

La Jolla Institute for Immunology has an important responsibility: to train the next generation of world-changing immunologists