The only advice doctors can give to the 4 percent of Americans with potentially life-threatening food allergies is to avoid the culprit food, often nuts or shellfish. But that may change as researchers in a new Food Allergy Research Consortium, announced, strive to develop therapies to treat and prevent food allergy.
The consortium, led by Hugh Sampson, M.D., at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, will receive approximately $17 million over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. In addition, a five-year NIAID grant totaling approximately $5 million to the Emmes Corporation, of Rockville, MD, will fund a statistical center to support the consortium.
“The expertise of the Food Allergy Research Consortium provides a unique opportunity to investigate basic immunologic mechanisms associated with food allergy in animal models and humans, and, ultimately, to test novel therapies to treat food allergy,” says Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of NIAID?s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation.
The consortium will conduct basic, clinical and epidemiological studies, and develop educational programs aimed at parents, children and healthcare providers.
The consortium?s first project will be a clinical study to evaluate a potential peanut allergy therapy. This potential therapy is expected to work in much the same fashion as allergy shots in which allergic individuals are given increasing doses of an allergen. The shots stimulate an immune response that protects against future allergic reactions. The existing approach, however, cannot be used in people with peanut allergies due to the risk of life-threatening reactions. To overcome this barrier, Dr. Sampson and Wesley Burks, M.D., of Duke University, Durham, NC, developed modified versions of peanut allergens that have been shown to be safe and effective in animal models. The consortium will evaluate these modified allergens in human clinical trials led by Robert Wood, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.
The consortium?s second project is an observational study that will enroll 400 infants who have allergies to milk or eggs. Such children are at higher risk of developing peanut allergy, but the vast majority will lose their allergies to those foods as they grow up. The study will follow the children for at least five years and study immunologic changes that accompany the loss of allergy to foods and the development of allergy to new foods. This study will be led by Scott Sicherer, M.D., at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
The clinical and observational studies will take place at five clinical sites:
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York; Principal Investigator: Hugh Sampson, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; Principal Investigator: Robert Wood, M.D.
Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC; Principal Investigator: Wesley Burks, M.D.
University of Arkansas Children?s Hospital Research Institute, Little Rock; Principal Investigator: Stacie Jones, M.D.
National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver; Principal Investigator: Donald Leung, M.D., Ph.D.