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December 14, 2022

Immunology to Change Lives: Where We're Going in 2023

Dear BRI Community, 

BRI was formed with a clear plan: First, answer key fundamental questions about the immune system. Then, build on those answers to change lives. This is a very exciting time because we’re reaching that second stage of the plan. We’re developing some of the first therapies that target the cause of immune system diseases rather than the symptoms. We’re finding ways to tailor treatment to each person. I’d like to start 2023 by celebrating key progress and sharing how we’ll build on that in the new year.

Advancing Personalized Medicine

Our team has long known that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for autoimmune diseases. One of our longstanding areas of research has been examining how and why people respond differently to the same therapy. Understanding this would help identify the right drug for the right person at the right time. 

Alice Long, PhD, and Peter Linsley, PhD, study data from clinical trials to determine who responds to new treatments for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and why. Most recently, their studies shed light on how a medication called teplizumab alters the immune system in patients for whom it is effective. Teplizumab is the first FDA-approved therapy to delay onset of T1D and any autoimmune disease.

Studying Health and Disease

To create a healthy immune system for everyone, we first need a detailed picture of a range of immune cell changes over time. In 2019, in collaboration with the Allen Institute for Immunology, BRI launched the multi-year Sound Life Project to closely follow 100 participants with no history of immune system disease. Cate Speake, PhD, is leading this work and asking key questions: What cells or features of the immune system are completely normal or have no impact on health? Which ones might play a role in disease? This study will create an immune system roadmap that can lead to insights and advances across immune system diseases.

Making Insights Across Disease

Immune system diseases are connected. This means progress against one disease means progress against them all. This year, our team will continue several avenues of research that shed light on multiple immune system diseases. For example, Carmen Mikacenic, MD, and Matt Altman, MD, MPhil, are exploring if respiratory infections can start the chain reaction that leads to immune system diseases — and if they can make childhood asthma and rheumatoid arthritis worse.

Building a Strong Future at BRI

Finding better therapies for my patients has been my inspiration throughout my two decades as a BRI scientist and Virginia Mason physician. That will never change. But looking forward, I’m finding additional motivation in the teams we’re building and the tools we’ll bring to bear on longstanding questions. 

Our research builds on the advances of so many scientists before us. Now we’re seeing new tools that help us make insights faster than ever — from exploring cells in virtual reality to processing millions of data points in seconds. But the tools would be nothing without the people behind them.

Jane Buckner

That’s why growing BRI’s team is another key priority. We’re already seeing the benefit when we welcome staff with fresh ideas and an understanding and excitement for our mission and vision. We don’t stop with an observation or publication. We ask the next question, relentlessly moving toward a discovery that could help someone. Our inquiry, persistence, teamwork and passion make us world leaders in human immunology — and enable us to make discoveries that change lives. 

Thank you for supporting BRI. Our work wouldn’t be possible without our employees, donors, research participants and everyone in our community. I’m so proud of how far BRI has come, and look forward to many more years of progress and advances.

Jane Buckner, MD
BRI President

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