Defining the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is critical for development of vaccines against COVID-19 and may also shed light on the variable disease severity observed in humans. This short Q&A session with Dr. Alessandro Sette, an expert with more than 30 years research experience on the immune system, highlights cutting edge research on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Dr. Sette introduces the concept of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system and its role in the immune system. He reviews his recent work on identifying likely SARS-CoV-2 epitopes based on the substantial existing data from on the closely-related SARS-CoV virus. Finally, Dr. Sette addresses potential next steps towards vaccine development, including the important role of preclinical animal models in vaccine research.