Philanthropy Fuels Allergy Research at BRI

Over the past decade, philanthropy has played a key role in pushing BRI’s allergy research forward: Donors have given $127,000 since 2013 and nearly $30,000 in 2020 alone. 

These donations are helping BRI understand why allergies happen and inform the search for better treatments. This progress is crucial, especially for people like 17-year-old Maggie Arnold, who has lived with a severe peanut allergy since she was 3.

“I do things like wear long sleeves to the movie theater in case someone sitting there before me was eating peanut M&M’s. And when people started all the hand washing and sanitizing during COVID, that was easy — I’ve been doing that all along,” says Maggie who knows that being exposed to even the smallest peanut traces can cause a life-threatening reaction.

Maggie and her family are among the many that turn to BRI for answers — and hope — when it comes to severe allergies.

In the past few years, BRI scientists have made key breakthroughs in allergy research. One of the most notable was from Erik Wambre, PhD, when he discovered a cell that plays a role in all allergies in 2017. This opened the door to developing a test that could detect TH2A cells and identify when patients have allergies. Even better, researchers could pursue therapies that target TH2A cells and stop allergies.

“We’re partnering with pharmaceutical companies to evaluate exciting new allergy therapies,” Dr. Wambre says, “and we’re exploring how drugs can block TH2A cells and maybe stop allergies altogether.”

Maggie and her mom, Cheryl, learned about BRI through reading about that discovery. They live halfway across the country in Southern Illinois, but have followed BRI’s blog and stayed in touch through social media ever since. They’re drawn to our organization because our scientists study the whole immune system, not just one disease. Maggie was recently diagnosed with POTS syndrome, which may have an autoimmune component. Cheryl’s sister passed away from multiple sclerosis.

“It makes you wonder: Are these things connected?” Cheryl says. “We believe in BRI because they’re not just looking for better treatments, they’re looking for the reason behind all of these conditions. Once we know that, a cure won’t be far.”

The Arnolds also have a message for the donors who support this work.

“We would like to sincerely thank each donor for their generosity,” Cheryl and Maggie say. “We value the continued support and the mission-mindedness of all future allergy research and development, as it impacts our family and the families of 32 million Americans living with food allergies."

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