New Study Aims for Quick Suppression of Food Allergies
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) awards grant to leading immunologist
By Sarah Ford on September 9, 2014
McLean, Va. (September 8, 2014) – Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) announced today that it has awarded a research grant totaling $734,986 to a leading immunologist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine/Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who is developing an innovative therapeutic approach that would rapidly and safely suppress food allergies. If successful, this treatment could be applied to all food allergies, from the “top eight” (peanut, tree nuts, milk, egg, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy) to less common food allergies. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health, is providing an additional grant of $1.3 million for a complementary study of this promising treatment.
Immunologist and grant recipient Fred Finkelman, M.D., has developed a therapy that could be especially beneficial to individuals with difficult-to-treat multiple food allergies, since it would allow physicians to desensitize these patients to all of their allergens at the same time. Of the 5.9 million U.S. children with food allergies, more than 30 percent are allergic to more than one food. These patients are more likely to experience anaphylaxis – a severe, potentially fatal reaction – than people with a single food allergy.
Finkelman and his team have developed a unique monoclonal antibody – an antibody grown in the laboratory – that targets and deactivates mast cells, which play a key role in allergic reactions. Special receptors on the surface of mast cells allow them to bind to IgE, the “bad” antibody responsible for food allergy. When a person with food allergy eats the wrong food, the IgE-primed mast cells attack the allergen, releasing chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. The monoclonal antibody removes both the IgE and IgE receptors on mast cells, making them harmless.