My passion for research

Brett, a person living with severe hemophilia

I’m Brett. I am a young adult living with severe hemophilia. I was diagnosed with hemophilia at 3 days old, which was a shock to my parents as I had no known family history. I developed inhibitors to my treatment at age 2 and underwent rigorous immune tolerance induction for over a year. After finally overcoming the inhibitor, my parents wanted to keep me out of harm’s way. They restricted me from playing contact sports, so I became academically driven at a young age.

Growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded by the great community at a summer camp for children living with bleeding disorders in Illinois. I learned a lot about myself and managing my hemophilia from counselors (many were living with hemophilia themselves), social workers, and doctors. Camp was where I learned how to self-infuse my prophylactic replacement factor.

Having hemophilia has taught me a lot about having empathy for others who are not dealt the greatest hand and has given me a clear purpose in life: helping others with hemophilia by searching for a lifelong cure.

Luckily for me, I was successful throughout my high school years and was accepted to the University of Florida (UF), one of the premier public research universities in the United States. As a sophomore, I read about a UF researcher developing an investigational gene therapy for hemophilia. Hoping to learn as much as I could about gene therapy, I went to his office and, after explaining that I was affected by hemophilia, I inquired about working in the lab. He offered me a position, and I soon began performing clotting and inhibitor assays on the hemophilic mouse samples in the lab. Working part-time in the lab throughout my undergraduate career, I learned a multitude of lab skills and techniques in a hands-on setting.

Getting exposure to the brilliant projects and ideas that the team at UF have to potentially improve the lives of those with hemophilia and then getting to actually work toward achieving the goals of our project were instrumental experiences in helping me decide that I wanted a career in research. After getting my bachelor’s degree at UF, I accepted a full-time position with the lab as a technician. I have been involved in the lab for a little over 6 years now. Directly contributing to the development of an investigational gene therapy for hemophilia is incredibly rewarding.

While there are still questions to be answered about gene therapy for hemophilia, I am exceptionally excited for what the future holds.