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New Food Allergy Research Consortium Focuses on Peanut Allergy

Armen Hareyan's picture

Food Allergy and Peanut Allergy

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 today, 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.

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  • 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.

  • For information about participating in the Food Allergy Research Consortium's clinical and observational studies, please call the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Pediatric Allergy Division, at (212) 241-5548.

The consortium's third project will conduct basic immunobiology research to determine the biological mechanisms of peanut allergy in mice. This knowledge will provide insights into allergic mechanisms in humans, which will lead to the identification and development of potential strategies to treat and prevent food allergies in humans. This research will be led by Kim Bottomly, Ph.D., of Yale University, New Haven, CT, in collaboration with Dr. Sampson and Lloyd Mayer, M.D., at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

In addition, the consortium will conduct a two-pronged educational program to teach parents and children how to avoid food allergens, and train pediatric health care professionals to treat and prevent food allergy.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)