Systems biology and infectious disease at Immunogenomics 2016

Dr. Alan Aderem to speak at HudsonAlpha conference.

The immune system, says Alan Aderem, PhD, is both the sum of its microscopic parts and an independent entity that operates as one unit. Immunogenomics, he says, provides the details that make those two views possible.

“The immune system is complex,” he said. “It needs to be understood holistically, and one of the components of this is to take a systems-wide approach to it. Immunogenomics essentially outlines the library of information that exists within the immune system.”

Aderem, who is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle, will be a keynote speaker at Immunogenomics 2016, to be held September 26-28 at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

“The conference is important,” Aderem said, “because it sets us up for a holistic understanding of the immune system.”

Nir Hacohen, PhD, a conference organizer with appointments at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute echoes Aderem’s view of the conference.

“The Immunogenomics conference is different than your classic immune conference about a particular cell type or pathway,” he said. “Immunogenomics is an approach more than a topic. It tries to figure out complex phenomena by looking at a lot of genes to understand the immune response more broadly. The field is constantly evolving, so having its leaders in one place is a unique opportunity.”

According to Hacohen, this year’s conference highlights more than one innovator in the field, including Aderem.

“Having Dr. Aderem as one of this year’s keynote speakers demonstrates that this conference has brought and will continue to bring the leaders in the field together,” Hacohen said. “As one of the founders of the Institute for Systems Biology, which really was the first institute doing a systems approach, he was an innovator in driving the merger of computation science and biology. Dr. Aderem is also an immunologist, so he was one of the first people doing the kind of work that is represented in this conference.”

Aderem defines systems biology as “the study of the emergent properties of biological systems and its component parts using comprehensive and quantitative experimental methods that are interpreted by predictive mathematical and statistical models.”  Inspired to help people by his upbringing and political activism – which resulted in house arrest – in apartheid South Africa, Aderem has focused his research on using systems biology to study infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, influenza, and other pathogens that significantly impact global health.

To hear Aderem’s keynote presentation and see how systems biology and infectious disease use immunogenomics to illuminate the immune system, register for Immunogenomics 2016 at