Some research at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) is probing at unexplored areas of the immune system — like research by Oliver Harrison, PhD, on the skin microbiome. Some research spans decades, starting with an intriguing idea in a lab and becoming a game-changing therapy, like research by Steve Ziegler, PhD, on a protein called TSLP. And sometimes, BRI’s research aims to answer some of the most pressing questions of our time, like COVID-19 research by Cate Speake, PhD.
Attendees heard about this research and more at this year’s Illuminations Luncheon.
“COVID-19 research has been a building-wide effort from the beginning of the pandemic,” Dr. Speake says. “And that parallels how it’s always been at BRI: We're all working together to address the causes and consequences of immune diseases that impact our community.”
This year’s event, hosted by KIRO 7’s Steve Raible, raised over $275,000 for BRI’s groundbreaking research. After hearing from Drs. Harrison, Speake and Ziegler, viewers got an insider’s look at BRI’s type 1 diabetes (T1D) research over the past four decades. This includes advances from discovering a gene that plays a key role in T1D, to testing therapies that aim to prevent the disease.
The event closed with the story of a family that actively participates in research and has been part of BRI’s studies for 13 years. When their oldest son Jackson had a severe allergic reaction to a peanut butter sandwich, he came to Virginia Mason. They soon learned that they could help Jackson and other kids with food allergies by donating blood samples to BRI for research. In the following years, they tested Jackson’s two younger brothers for food allergies — and neither of them had any. Both brothers soon enrolled in research too, as healthy controls.
“It makes you feel better that you get to help other people out, especially your brother,” says Jackson’s younger brother Keegan.
Eager to do more to support research, their family also enrolled Keegan and Jackson in COVID-19 vaccine research at BRI this year. Families like this one — who support BRI’s work through financial donations or by spending countless hours volunteering and donating samples — play an integral role in pushing BRI’s research forward.
“I'm so grateful to BRI for helping not only us, but so many other families with kids who have allergies,” says Keegan and Jackson’s mom Kamila. “Any tiny way we can contribute to that is amazing.”
Missed Illuminations 2021? Watch the recording of the event here and learn more about how philanthropy fuels BRI’s research.