Dr. Alessandro Sette has devoted more than 35 years of study towards understanding the immune response, measuring immune activity, and developing disease intervention strategies against cancer, autoimmunity, allergy, and infectious diseases. Dr. Sette is currently a Member and Head of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) Division of Vaccine Discovery as well as chair of the Institute's Center for Infectious Diseases. Dr. Sette has a doctorate in Biological Sciences from the University of Rome and did postdoctoral work at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver, Colorado. In 1988, Dr. Sette joined Howard Grey, M.D. at the newly founded Cytel, in La Jolla, and was also appointed as an adjunct assistant professor at The Scripps Research Institute. He founded Epimmune in 1997, where he served both as Vice President of Research and Chief Scientific Officer until 2002, when he joined LJI.
Dr. Sette is a leader in the field of T cell epitope-MHC interactions, beginning with his contribution to the discovery of the biological function of MHC in the mid 80s to mid 90s. From those studies he and his collaborators further developed the notion that different MHCs have distinct binding specificities that can be used to predict epitopes. The Sette group also discovered and characterized how MHC variants can be grouped according to broad common functional specificities (MHC supertypes), greatly facilitating epitope classification, characterization and understanding the basic rules of epitope-MHC interactions. At the same time, several studies have outlined the fine specificity of different closely related alleles, in some cases clearly associated with predisposition to disease resistance or susceptibility.
The laboratory is defining in chemical terms the specific structures (epitopes) that the immune system recognizes, and uses this knowledge to measure and to define the immune signatures associated with productive/protective immunity versus deficient immunity/immunopathology. The laboratory’s broad disease focus is ranges from HIV, HBV, HCV and emerging diseases to dengue viruses, malaria and tuberculosis.
Furthermore, Dr. Sette’s team has adapted the methods and techniques developed in the context of infectious disease to understand the T cell response to common allergens. These efforts have resulted in the discovery of previously unknown human T cell epitopes that may be key in the initiation of allergic responses, and to the development of biochemical and bioinformatic tools that have been used to map the human T cell response to a large panel of common allergens.
Finally, Dr. Sette has overseen the design and curation efforts of the national Immune Epitope Database (IEDB), a freely available, widely used bioinformatics resource, since its inception in the early 2000s. The IEDB catalogs all epitopes for humans, non-human primates, rodents, and other vertebrates, from allergens, infectious diseases, autoantigens and transplants, and includes epitope prediction tools to accelerate immunology research around the world.