Microsoft and Adaptive Biotechnologies partner to study immune response to COVID-19

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Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO Chad Robins. (GeekWire Photo)

Microsoft and Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies announced Friday they will work together to map the immune response to COVID-19.

The goal of the partnership is to study population-wide immune responses to the disease. Their findings will be publicly available via an open data portal. By studying broad immune responses to the virus, the companies hope they can provide unique insights as researchers search for new therapies and diagnostics.

In April, Adaptive will begin collecting de-identified blood samples from people diagnosed with COVID-19. Researchers will sequence immune cell receptors from the samples using Adaptive’s proprietary technology. The findings will then be analyzed by Microsoft’s large-scale machine learning capabilities and Azure cloud platform.

“We can improve our collective understanding of COVID-19 by decoding the immune system’s response to the virus and the disease patterns that can be inferred from studying these data at the population level,” said Adaptive CEO Chad Robins in a statement. “Immune response data may enable detection of the virus in infected people not showing symptoms and improve triaging of newly diagnosed patients, potentially solving two of the challenges we are facing in the current diagnostic paradigm.”

The healthcare network Providence will be the initial clinical collaborator on the research.

“The solution to COVID-19 is not likely going to come from one person, one company or one country,” said Microsoft’s VP of AI and research, Peter Lee, in a statement. “This is a global issue, and it will be a global effort to solve it.”

It’s not the first time Microsoft and Adaptive have partnered on a research project. The two Seattle-area companies are working together to diagnose a variety of diseases from a single blood test. Adaptive has also partnered with Genentech to use the immune sequencing platform to develop new drugs.

Last summer, Adaptive raised $300 million in an initial public offering. The company has been developing its immune sequencing platform since 2009, attracting big-name investors before going public.

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