The Harold and Pam Holmes Trust

Supporting women in science

In 2017, Dr Vanessa Bryant was awarded a five- year grant of $499,530 from the Holmes Trust to undertake research into the most common primary immunodeficiency, Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID).

At a glance

  • CVID is caused by genetic errors in the immune system that can lead to devastating illness.
  • Patients experience impaired production of protective antibodies leading to frequent severe infections that can reduce life expectancy.
  • Infants with CVID become vulnerable in the first years of life and additionally, have poor responses to vaccination.

Paving the way

With the tremendous opportunity afforded by the Holmes Trust, Dr Bryant set about recruiting clinical partners, genetic counsellors, and health economists to improve outcomes for people with CVID by providing genetic diagnoses.

This opened the pathway to curative treatments with the aim of mapping the most cost-effective and efficient diagnostic model so it can be replicated in other treatment centres across Australia.

“I am proud of my team and our contribution to the field over the last five years,” said Dr Bryant, who is a Laboratory Head in the Immunology division at WEHI.

“Our discoveries mean patients now have a path to targeted care that avoids the serious complications of poorly managed disease.”

This generous funding not only supported Vanessa but two other early career researchers: Dr Charlotte Slade, a clinician scientist, and Dr Lauren Howson.

“This grant has been a gamechanger for our research program, for people’s health, and a momentous boost to our careers,” said Dr Bryant.

Dr Charlotte Slade, Dr Vanessa Bryant and Dr Lauren Howson have been supported by the Harold and Pam Holmes grant
Above: Dr Charlotte Slade, Dr Vanessa Bryant and Dr Lauren Howson have been supported by the Harold and Pam Holmes grant

The impact of support

There are still great challenges for women in science, which get in the way of their contribution to medical research. Resourcing their research projects and enabling career progression is critical to retaining talent to help meet the health and medical needs of our time. Funding from the Holmes Trust has not only enabled ground-breaking research and improved patient outcomes but has also provided these early career researchers with the opportunity to reach their potential.

“Supporting the careers of women scientists is about empowering scientific talent to make discoveries that will change and improve people’s lives. The progress Dr Bryant and her team have made in CVID demonstrates the impact that can be achieved by believing in and supporting early career researchers, as well as the power that philanthropy can have in medical research,” said Cecilia Gason from Equity Trustees Philanthropy, manager of The Harold and Pam Holmes Trust.

Dr Bryant said the grant from the Holmes Trust came at a critical time in her career.

“Over the last five years there have been many highlights, but the most important one has been the opportunity to change the clinical course for people with CVID by providing a genetic diagnosis. This result would not have been possible without this funding.

“Our work is not finished yet, but we are now well placed to leverage our discoveries to improve clinical care for children and adults with complex immune diseases.”

The Harold and Pam Holmes Trust is one of more than 600 charitable trusts managed by Equity Trustees.

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