McLEAN, Va. (March 23, 2015) – Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the world’s largest private source of funding for food allergy research, announced today the recipients of its inaugural FARE Investigator in Food Allergy Awards. This new, multimillion dollar, multiyear research grant program is aimed at attracting gifted early and mid-career investigators to the field of food allergy.
“Food allergy is a life-altering and potentially life-threatening disease affecting 15 million Americans. This growing public health issue is in urgent need of talented investigators who can help to accelerate advancements in food allergy research and treatment,” said James R. Baker, Jr., M.D., CEO and chief medical officer of FARE. “FARE is committed to supporting research progress in a number of ways, including markedly increasing the number of investigators working in the field. The FARE Investigator in Food Allergy Awards represent an important step in this direction, and we are pleased with the influx of high-quality applications we received for this year’s inaugural awards.”
The FARE Investigator in Food Allergy Awards are divided into two categories: New Investigator Awards and Mid-Career Investigator Awards. The New Investigator Awards support the development of an academic research career by providing $75,000 per year for salary support and laboratory expenses for two years for research conducted by individuals (MD, PhD, MD/PhD or DO) who have completed at least two years of allergy/immunology training and who will be entering their third or fourth year of fellowship training. The funding supports investigators involved in education and basic and/or clinical research on the mechanisms and treatment of food allergic diseases. The recipients of the 2015 New Investigator Awards are:
- Jessica O’Konek, PhD, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) – O’Konek will research the modulation of food allergy responses with nanoemulsion-based allergy vaccines, exploring the possibility of providing protection against anaphylaxis with intranasal administration of nanoemulsion combined with egg or peanut antigens.
- Duane Wesemann, MD, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) – Wesemann seeks to identify the extent to which primary Ig repertoires can be influenced by microbial and dietary exposures early in life and examine how modification of these exposures can reduce allergic response to food.
The Mid-Career Investigator Awards ($150,000 annually for up to five years) focus on established investigators holding the academic rank of Assistant Professor or Associate Professor, or the equivalent in non-academic research settings. These awards were presented to U.S. investigators who have proven themselves capable of performing cutting-edge research in other areas, but now want to transition to work in food allergy. The purpose of the award is to provide candidates with support for intensive research experiences over a period of up to five years to acquire new capabilities that are within the FARE research mission. It is expected that the proposed career enhancement plan will represent a novel extension of the research of the candidate to the pathogenesis or treatment of food allergy. The recipients of the 2015 Mid-Career Investigator Awards are:
- Simon Hogan, PhD, Cincinnati Children’s – Hogan’s work focuses on identifying the key proteins and cells that cause the blood vessel fluid leak leading to severe anaphylaxis triggered by foods. This knowledge will have important implications for developing new treatment strategies and therapeutics for preventing the development of severe, life-threatening food reactions.
- Michiko Oyoshi, PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School – Oyoshi will examine the role of maternal antibodies transferred to babies through breast milk in inducing oral tolerance in children. This study may support potential beneficial effects of maternal allergen exposure during pregnancy and lactation on protecting babies from food allergy.
- Erik Wambre, PhD, Benaroya Research Institute (Seattle) – Wambre will investigate the specific T cell responses to peanut allergic components to determine the cellular and molecular mechanism associated with peanut sensitization, as well as those that lead to restoration and maintenance of protective responses.
All award recipients were chosen through an open application process. Proposals were reviewed and 2015 recipients were selected by a FARE-organized, objective panel of distinguished scientists and biotechnology experts. Panelists affiliated with applicants’ institutions did not participate in any evaluations in their respective category.
The FARE Investigator in Food Allergy Awards are supported by generous donations from the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, the Ira Riklis Family and an anonymous donor.
For more information about food allergies and FARE’s programs, visit www.foodallergy.org.