AIRR Community and iReceptor Plus meeting in Genoa an international success


By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich and Pam Borghardt

Some 140 scientists attended a conference of the AIRR Community and the iReceptor Plus Project in Genoa, Italy, in the middle of May, along more than 20 virtual participants. 

This was the first time the AIRR Community has met in Europe, which resulted in a greatly expanded attendance by European partners. Attendees came to explore how analyzing and sharing AIRR-seq data can help us better understand the immune response. This, they expect, will eventually improve patient care and the discovery of novel therapies and diagnostics.

The AIRR Community meeting also explored “how we can increase collaboration between academics and biopharma companies and other industrial partners and how we can include patient populations in our research,” said biological sciences Prof. Felix Breden, who is the outgoing Chair of the AIRR Community, and scientific manager of iReceptor Plus and executive director of the IRMACS Centre at Simon Fraser University. The local host, Dr. Davide Bagnara of the University of Genoa provided outstanding venues and food for the AIRR Community Meeting IV: Bridging the Gaps.

After the meeting, 22 members of the iReceptor Plus consortium – including several members of the AIRR Community – continued their discussion at a technical meeting, hosted by Canada’s Simon Fraser University, focusing on the technical challenges of the iReceptor Plus project.

Dr. Nina Luning Prak of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School (who spoke about Defining and tracking B-cell clonal expansions) and Dr. Xiao Liu of Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) (who spoke about the Pan Immunome Initiative and applications in health and disease) also met with iReceptor Plus partners to discuss ways the consortium can help apply these data to important translational activities.

Dr. Luning Prak is an associate professor of pathology and lab medicine at her university and has much expertise in human B-cell biology and translational immunology research. Prak is a board-certified clinical pathologist and serves as an associate director of the clinical immunology and immunogenetics laboratory at the university’s hospital. 

She has much experience in B cell subsets, antibody and T-cell receptor repertoire analysis, autoimmunity, antibodies, next-generation sequencing and flow cytometry. She directs an extramurally funded research laboratory and the Human Immunology Core facility. Has extensive experience mentoring predoctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and residents in research.

Dr. Xiao Liu of the BGI Group —  a genome sequencing company, headquartered in ShenzhenGuangdong, China. LIU received his bachelor’s and master’s degree at China’s Nanjing University majoring in chemistry and molecular biology. He went on for his doctorate at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. For the last 11 years, he has been doing genomics research and development in BGI-Shenzhen, focusing on novel methodologies and approaches to apply next-generation sequencing technologies, especially to immunotherapy.

BGI was established 20 years ago to participate in the Human Genome Project and is the world’s largest genetics research center. It is regarded as the world’s leader in gene-sequencing services and sequencing genomes of other animals, plants and microorganisms. In 2013, it bought Complete Genomics in Mountain View, California for US $118 million and develops, manufactures and markets genome sequencing technology.

BGI is credited with being the first to do novo sequence and assemble mammalian and human genomes with short-read sequencing (so-called “next-generation sequencing”). It also sequenced the first ancient human’s genome and initiated building a sequence map of the human pan-genome, estimated to contain 19 to 40 million bases not in the human reference genome.