Illuminations Luncheon Fuels Discovery at BRI

Nanette Freeman has been to countless Virginia Mason events – her husband, Melvin Freeman, MD, was an ophthalmologist at Virginia Mason for nearly three decades and has done research with Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) for 50 years. BRI’s annual Illuminations event is always one of her favorite events, and this year was no exception: She and many other guests enjoyed a delicious meal while hearing from BRI researchers about the progress they’re making against immune system diseases.

“It’s fascinating to learn how BRI is investigating various autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and allergies,” Nanette says. “Every year, the luncheon is a great opportunity to learn about BRI’s cutting-edge research from the scientists who lead it and the patients it helps.”

This year’s event, held November 8, 2019, focused on how BRI labs are making progress toward transforming the lives of people with immune disease worldwide. What if advances in rheumatoid arthritis research made joint pain and physical limitations a thing of the past? Or if the next generation of kids with peanut allergies could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without worrying? BRI moves closer to these possibilities every day.

Guests first enjoyed a research showcase where scientists shared their work firsthand, highlighting everything from progress against peanut allergies to type 1 diabetes studies using virtual reality. Patty Payne and Kent Carson led “Raise the Paddle” fundraising and KIRO’s Steve Raible emceed the main event.

This year’s program included two videos showing the impactful work donors that BRI donors help fund. The first video highlighted how BRI is working to prevent and cure disease, while the second showed how studying healthy immune systems can improve treatments.

“Having a clear understanding of what healthy immune systems look like helps us pinpoint what goes wrong in disease,” says BRI’s President Jane Buckner, MD. “From there, we can hopefully learn how to rebalance the immune system back to health.”

Donor funding plays a crucial role in fueling BRI’s quest to predict, prevent, reverse and cure immune system diseases.

“Gifts from donors help us invest in innovation: from early-stage ideas, to new scientists, to purchasing new tools,” Dr. Buckner says. “For every dollar donated, BRI has been able to attract $6 of research funding, accelerating progress against everything from autoimmune disease to cancer.”


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