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January 10, 2024

On the Brink of a Golden Age of Medicine

Dear BRI Community,

I recently read an article that claimed we’ve entered a golden age of medicine. In some ways, this feels true. But when I see patients in my rheumatology clinic, I know that this cannot be a golden age. We often have to use a trial and error approach to find the right treatment — there’s no other way to know which treatment will work best for which patient. Many of these treatments make people more vulnerable to infections like COVID-19. And I see patients who, despite our best efforts, experience more days with pain and fewer days doing what they love because their autoimmune disease becomes more debilitating over time.

But I have hope. I know we will reach that golden age, and BRI’s research in human immunology is the vehicle that will take us there. This field has shepherded incredible advances in recent years, including new vaccines, new cancer treatments, and new and better treatment options for autoimmune disease. We’re making key progress in screening and prevention, moving us closer to knowing exactly who will develop autoimmune disease, and how we can stop it in its tracks.

Jane Buckner
Jane Buckner, MD

BRI is uniquely positioned to accelerate this progress. As we enter a new year, we will advance our mission to predict, prevent, reverse and cure immune system diseases, to fully realize this golden age of medicine. 

One way we’re doing this is through engineering three-dimensional tissue models, which helps us ask questions and find answers that are most relevant to human disease. We’re expanding our work in Down syndrome, including exploring why people with Down syndrome have some innate protection from solid tumor cancers like breast and lung cancer — and what we might learn about addressing these cancers in everyone else. We’re also partnering with the University of Washington to explore how environmental factors like diet, exercise, geographic location and wildfire smoke impact the immune system.

Screening and prevention will be key areas of investigation in the coming year. Last year, teplizumab was approved as the first-ever treatment to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes (T1D) — and the first medicine to delay any autoimmune disease. Now, we’re investigating how to delay T1D for longer or prevent it altogether. We’re also making strides toward prediction and early intervention in rheumatoid arthritis and, for the first time, exploring prevention in ulcerative colitis.

In this issue of Powering Possibility, you’ll learn more about some of these new areas of inquiry, and you’ll see how BRI has the team, the knowledge and the science to make important progress. But we can’t write the next chapter of research advances without our research participants and donors. Research participants, you are the heart and soul of our work. Our research starts with you and would not be possible without you. Financial donors, thank you for knowing that big discoveries often start by thinking outside the box. Together, we can move into a true golden age of medicine. Together, we can advance the science to predict, prevent, reverse and cure diseases of the immune system and make discoveries that change lives.


Jane Buckner, MD
President of Benaroya Research Institute

Carla J Greenbaum
Carla Greenbaum, MD

Carla Greenbaum, MD, Earns Lifetime Achievement Award for Diabetes Research

Carla Greenbaum, MD, was recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ), celebrating her many accomplishments in type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. She has been a driving force behind substantially improving the diagnosis, management and quality of life for people living with T1D.

Dr. Greenbaum joined BRI in 2000 and built our diabetes research program from the ground up. Her team has played a key role in major T1D advances, including building BRI’s T1D biorepository and detailing screening criteria to predict who will develop T1D. She also played a key role in clinical trials of teplizumab, a game-changing medicine that can delay the onset of T1D by a median of two years. Teplizumab is the first-ever medicine to delay or prevent any autoimmune disease. This work was led by TrialNet, a T1D research consortium that Dr. Greenbaum chaired from 2015-2021.

Today, Dr. Greenbaum directs BRI’s Center for Interventional Immunology. She continues to be a field leader in T1D research and guides BRI’s expansion into clinical trials across other autoimmune diseases.

“It is immensely gratifying to have PSBJ recognize the work we do here at BRI to predict, prevent and cure autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes,” Dr. Greenbaum says.

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