Press Releases

Seattle, WA - Mar 10, 2021

New Researcher Dr. Oliver Harrison at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason Receives $2.9 Million NIH R01 Grant to Study How the Immune System Responds to the Microbiome

Prestigious NIH grant will help Dr. Harrison establish his lab, focus on ways to limit skin infections and accelerate wound healing

Principal Investigator Oliver Harrison, DPhil, at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) has been awarded a $2.9 million-dollar 5-year Research Project Grant (R01) by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the mechanisms by which the immune system responds to the body’s microbiome, and how these immune responses go awry during inflammatory, immune-mediated and autoimmune disorders.

The study has a particular focus on ways to prevent skin infection while accelerating wound repair through manipulation of microbiome-specific T-cells found within the skin. Better understanding of these T-cell responses and how they are regulated can potentially lead to new therapies for inflammatory disorders such as psoriasis, the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the United States, and inflammatory bowel disease, which has been on the rise among Americans over the last two decades.

"This is unexplored territory for investigation as there is so much we still don’t know about the connection between our microbiome and inflammatory disorders," said Dr. Harrison. "If we can promote local immunity and accelerate healing of damaged tissue, we may be able to accelerate wound repair while simultaneously limiting skin infections."

The NIH’s R01 grant is the oldest and most prestigious grant awarded to independent investigators conducting biomedical research. It is often viewed as a catalyst to launching a research career with a competitive application process for many new and early-career investigators. With the funding, Dr. Harrison will expand his lab at BRI as a new principal investigator who joined the research organization in 2019.

"We are thrilled to have Dr. Harrison at BRI," said Jane Buckner, MD, president of BRI.  "His receipt of this R01 grant and his NOSTER Science Microbiome Prize last year are important achievements at this early point in his career. I look forward to his important contributions as we seek to unravel the complex and often misunderstood immune system."

Research reported in this release was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AI158624. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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About Benaroya Research Institute

Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) is a world leader in human immune system research. BRI works to advance the science that will predict, prevent, reverse and cure immune system diseases like allergies, asthma, cancer, COVID-19 and autoimmune diseases. BRI accelerates discovery through laboratory breakthroughs in immunology that are then translated to clinical therapies. We believe that a breakthrough in one immune system disease can lead to progress against them all, and work tirelessly toward our vision of a healthy immune system for everyone. BRI is a world-renowned independent nonprofit research institute affiliated with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and based in Seattle.

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