The science and medicine of human immunology

September 25, 2020

Publication type

Journal Article



Volume and Number

369(6511):eaay4014. doi: 10.1126/science.aay4014.


Pulendran B, Davis M


Although the development of effective vaccines has saved countless lives from infectious diseases, the basic workings of the human immune system are complex and have required the development of animal models, such as inbred mice, to define mechanisms of immunity. More recently, new strategies and technologies have been developed to directly explore the human immune system with unprecedented precision. We discuss how these approaches are advancing our mechanistic understanding of human immunology and are facilitating the development of vaccines and therapeutics for infection, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.


  • We propose that studying the immune system in humans, who are genetically diverse and afflicted by a multitude of diseases, offers both a direct link to medicine (i.e., “translation”) and the very real prospect of discovering fundamentally new human biology.
  • Computational data mining and biological validation in animal models or human organoids are essential next steps in an iterative cycle that seeks to bridge fundamental and applied science, as well as mouse and human immunology, in a seamless continuum of scientific discovery and translational medicine.
  • This will represent a new paradigm for accelerating the development of vaccines and therapeutics.