Protecting Aging Populations

The world is aging at an unprecedented rate and we are not prepared. By 2050 nearly 1.6 billion people will be over the age 65, creating widespread public health challenges. This aging of populations will dramatically increase the burden of non-communicable diseases and enhance our vulnerability to infectious disease threats driven by migration, antimicrobial resistance and climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted these challenges, as aging populations with co-morbidities face the greatest threat of severe disease.

The human immune system holds the key to improving human health, and within this single system lies an immense capacity to fight disease. Technological innovations are now allowing us to reimagine and reshape the future of public health by understanding and harnessing the immune system in new ways.

Taking on one of the great challenges in public health, the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and the Human Vaccines Project, a global nonprofit human immunology-based clinical research consortium, are joining forces to create the Human Immunomics Initiative (HII). The Initiative seeks to extend healthy life spans by determining the rules of human immunity central to protecting, treating and diagnosing disease in aging global populations.

Operating at the forefront of 21st century public health inquiry, the HII will merge large-scale cohort studies with advances in systems biology, bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the rules of engagement for effective immunity in aging populations. HII will bring together a world-class group of interdisciplinary scientists, clinicians and public health specialists across epidemiology, immunology, biostatistics and AI, and will be closely integrated with the Human Vaccines Project’s global consortium.

The HII will focus on large-scale, transformative, mission-driven science and require the integration of creative academic inquiry with industrial rigor and scale in its organizational structure, management and decision making. It will provide a dynamic pathway for a new generation of scientists applying new technologies to achieve its mission. Over the next five years, the HII will complete foundational human immunity studies on internationally recognized cohorts across three continents. By using frontier computing, causal inference methods, AI and machine learning, HII will define the rules of engagement of the human immune system in aging populations.

The HII represents a coming together of imagination and execution, technology and vision. It will drive an unprecedented understanding of human immunity, opening discovery of powerful new vaccines, therapies and diagnostics against some of the world’s most devastating diseases from Alzheimer’s, cancers, to emerging pandemics. The tools are in place, and with an unparalleled global consortium centered at the Harvard Chan School, achievement of HII objectives to identify predictive biomarkers of effective immunity in aging populations has the potential to transform the future of global health.

How we work

Longitudinal Cohorts

The HII partners with leading global longitudinal cohorts to understand immunity in older adults at a population scale.

Systems Biology

Within longitudinal cohorts, the HII will comprehensively measure immune responses to vaccination to identify signatures of effective immunity.

Bioinformatics and AI

Using AI and statistical advances like casual inference, we will develop computational models of the human immune system to determine how to effectively protect older populations from disease.

Joining Forces

The HII brings together Harvard Chan School experts in epidemiology, causal inference, immunology, and computational and systems biology with the resources and expertise of the Human Vaccines Project.

Be part of our ambitious project to ensure healthier, longer lives for everyone.


Executive Team

Albert Hofman


Wayne Koff


Jaap Goudsmit


Ted Schenkelberg


Scientific Team

Galit Alter

Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School

Sarah Fortune

John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases Chair

Michael Mina

Assistant Professor Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics

Julie Wu

Research Scientist Infectious Disease Epidemiology

About the Human Vaccines Project

The Human Vaccines Project is a nonprofit public-private partnership with a mission to decode the human immune system and accelerate the development of vaccines and immunotherapies across major global diseases. The Project brings together leading academic research centers, industrial partners, nonprofits and governments to answer core questions about how the human immune system fights disease and pioneer a new era in human health. Find out more about the Human Vaccines Project here: