Food allergy is a very common and life threatening
condition, with as many as one child out of thirteen
suffering from the disorder. Although food allergies have
long been associated with childhood, they now affect
six percent of the adult population as well. In fact, it has
become less likely that affected children will lose their
food allergies as they reach adulthood, leading food
allergies to double in prevalence over the past ten years.
Up to eleven percent of individuals with food allergies could suffer a fatal or near fatal
reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, over the course of their lifetimes. Yet despite
the severity and pervasiveness of this dangerous condition, there currently exists no
treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food allergies
or food sensitivities. The only known therapy is complete avoidance of any food
containing even the smallest trace of an allergen, a practice which can be disruptive
and isolating, especially in the life of a child.
In recent years, food allergy researchers at Stanford have taken great strides in
developing new therapies for individuals suffering from food allergies and food
sensitivities. However, many critical issues remain unresolved. In addition to the lack
of a cure, the cause of food allergies is still unknown. Reliable food allergy diagnostic
tests do not exist, nor are any predictors available to determine which patients may
outgrow their food allergies, or which patients’ food allergies may lead to severe and
dangerous complications.
In an effort to expand scientific understanding of food allergies, and develop new and
lasting food allergy treatments for patients everywhere, Stanford University scientists
and clinicians seek to establish the Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity Center at Lucile
Packard Children’s Hospital and the Stanford School of Medicine. Directed by Kari
Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned expert in the field of immunology,
the Center will become the unparalleled leader in research and clinical care for food
allergies and food sensitivities. The goals of the Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity
Center are to:
1) Conduct laboratory research to discover the immunological mechanisms
of food allergy, and translate these discoveries into clinical interventions
2) Train students, post docs, and early-career physicians in the research
and treatment of food allergies
3) Provide educational outreach programs throughout the community to
support patients and their families affected by food allergy disorders,
and increase public awareness of the prevalence of food allergies
To date, Stanford researchers have made substantial progress in research and clinical
work, leading to the patenting of new diagnostic tests, the discovery of epigenetic
changes associated with food allergy, and, most importantly, the development of
new therapies that could lead to long-term cures. The next step on the pathway
to a cure is to more fully integrate these investigations and clinical efforts into
an interdisciplinary center with research, treatment, education, and outreach
components. Stanford is now poised to take this critical step by establishing the
Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity Center.
The Center would enable scientists
from across the university to bring new
disciplinary perspectives to the study
of food allergies. Specialists in fields
such as gastroenterology, psychology,
and otolaryngology have the potential
to introduce critical insights and
groundbreaking methodology to the
field. By increasing available resources
for laboratory research, the Food
Allergy and Food Sensitivity Center will
create new opportunities for scientists
from all backgrounds to make exciting
contributions to food allergy research. The Center will greatly expand Stanford’s
capacity for clinical food allergy research as well, enabling more patients to
participate in studies and gain access to potentially life-saving cures. In addition
to fostering new directions in clinical and laboratory research, the Center will also
introduce a new research dimension to food allergy study by utilizing computational
biology for data storage and management.
Clinical Care
The Center will establish a new,
multidisciplinary outpatient ambulatory
clinic, where physicians from different
subspecialties (including gastroenterology,
dermatology, and psychology) would work
together during clinic visits to diagnose food
allergies and help manage each patient’s
condition. Following the evaluations, team
members would hold a formal wrap-up meeting in order to provide clinical impressions
and recommendations, and discuss an integrated diagnostic and treatment plan.
In addition to bringing Stanford’s state-of-the-art treatments to more patients, this
clinic would serve as a national and international referral center for clinical studies,
attracting patients from all over the world to the Center.
One of the primary goals of the Center is to educate post docs and early-career
faculty in the latest developments in food allergy research, so they can achieve new
breakthroughs in carrying this work forward. Increased investment in research and
training will enable the Center to develop a long-term and sustained training and
mentoring program for physicians and scientists in the field of food allergy.
Because the needs of patients and
families affected by food allergies are
so complex, the Center would like to
establish a dedicated group to help
educate families and coordinate care.
This group will advocate for food allergy
awareness and research in the local
community, and work to improve the
quality of life for food allergy patients.
Through its outreach effort, the Center
will create newsletters and webinars,
and offer support group activities and
other learning opportunities.
With a significant philanthropic investment, the Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
Research Center will be able to attract the most innovative and accomplished
researchers, and draw patients from all over the world, to participate in the Center’s
pioneering work.