Immuno-biotechnology and Bioinformatics in Community Colleges

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Immuno-biotechnology is one of the fastest growing areas in the field of biotechnology. Digital World Biology’s database of nearly 7000 biotechnology employers has nearly 700 organizations that are involved with immunology in some way. With the advent of advanced DNA sequencing, and other technologies, immuno-biotechnology has significantly increased the use of computing technologies to decipher the meaning of large datasets and predict interactions between immune receptors (antibodies / T-Cell receptors / MHC) and their targets.

The use of new technologies like immune-profiling - where large numbers of immune receptors are sequenced en masse - and targeted cancer therapies - where researchers create, engineer, and grow modified T cells to attack tumors - are leading to job growth and demands for new skills and knowledge in biomanufacturing, quality systems, immuno-bioinformatics, and cancer biology. In response to these new demands, Shoreline Community College (Shoreline, WA) has begun developing an immuno-biotechnology certificate. Part of this certificate includes a five-week course (30 hours hands-on computer lab) on immuno-bioinformatics.

The immuno-bioinformatics course includes exercises in immune profiling, vaccine development, and operating bioinformatics programs using a command line interface. In immune profiling, students explore T-cell receptor datasets from early stage breast cancer samples using Adaptive Biotechnologies’ (Seattle, WA) immunoSEQ Analyzer public server to learn how T-cells differ between normal tissue, blood, and tumors. Next, they use the IEDB (Immune Epitope Database) in conjunction with Molecule World (Digital World Biology) to predict antigens from sequences and verify the results to learn the differences between continuous and discontinuous epitopes that are recognized by T-cell receptors and antibodies. Finally, to get hands-on experience with bioinformatics programs, students will use cloud computing (CyVerse) and igBLAST (NCBI) to explore data from an immune profiling experiment.

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