FARE Research Retreat 2018: Human Impacts, Breakthrough Therapies and New Prospects
At the Sixth Annual FARE Research Retreat, held April 13-14, 2018, in McLean, VA, 130 academic scientists, clinical care providers, pharmaceutical industry representatives, government officials and patient advocates came together to discuss progress in food allergy research and identify opportunities to design clinical trials that not only test the effectiveness of new treatments but also reflect and respond to the psychological and social needs of food allergy patients and their families.
For a second year, the Research Retreat featured compelling presentations by members of FARE’s Outcomes Research Advisory Board (ORAB), which includes parents of children with food allergies, adults with food allergies, health professionals, educators, and other food allergy stakeholders. Since 2016, more than 40 members of four regional advisory boards have invested more than 2,500 volunteer hours in defining, documenting and sharing their priorities for food allergy research, which include:
- more accurate diagnostic methods, including methods that can help predict disease progression and the risk of severe reactions
- new therapies to protect against the most severe symptoms
- labeling practices that make it easier to avoid allergens without excluding safe foods
- improvements in epinephrine, including non-injectable forms of the drug
- support systems that address quality-of-life issues like stress, anxiety and bullying
At the 2018 Research Retreat, the ORAB presentations centered on the psychological and social toll of living with food allergies, including the unique stresses of participating in a clinical trial. Teddy Kider, an attorney and food allergy patient, noted that with increasing food allergy prevalence, “the mental health of allergy patients is a crisis waiting to happen, and now is the time to get ahead of it.” Bryan Bunning, who is both a food allergy patient and a researcher in training, remarked on how anxiety influences each phase of clinical trial participation – before, during and after the trial – which has important effects on adherence and thereby affects the value of the research data.
Clinical psychologist and food allergy parent Gia Rosenblum encouraged researchers to incorporate psychosocial evaluations into their clinical trials, both to meet the needs of patients and families and to gather longitudinal data about how trial participation affects quality of life. The concluding speaker from the ORAB was Drew Bird, an allergist on the faculty of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas (University of Texas) and the director of UT Southwestern’s Food Allergy Center, which is part of the FARE Clinical Network. He emphasized the importance of providing psychosocial support as part of comprehensive food allergy care and recommended that FCN Centers of Excellence include this aspect of care in their fellowship training programs.
Researchers in the U.S. and Europe also reported their latest findings from laboratory investigations and clinical trials. Among the five recipients of the 2015 FARE Investigator in Food Allergy awards, Mid-Career Investigators Eric Wambre, Simon Hogan and Michiko Oyoshi discussed their ongoing projects, while New Investigators Jessica O’Konek and Duane Wesemann delivered final reports on the work they completed during their two-year grants. The three researchers who received 2017 FARE Investigator in Food Allergy awards – New Investigator Edda Fiebiger and Mid-Career Investigators Robert Anthony and Stephanie Eisenbarth – reported on their first year of FARE-funded studies.
Attendees heard summaries of large clinical trials recently completed for AR101, Aimmune Therapies’ characterized peanut flour product for oral immunotherapy, and Viaskin Peanut. DBV Technologies’ peanut-coated dermal patch for epicutaneous immunotherapy. Via Skype, Helen Brough (St. Thomas’ Hospital, King’s College London) reported on the FARE-funded ProNut clinical trial taking place in London, Geneva, and Valencia. The ProNut trial is characterizing how new allergies to peanut, tree nuts or sesame arise in individuals who already have one or more or more of those allergies, as well as evaluating the outcomes that result when participants regularly eat nuts to which they are not allergic.
Attending his final Research Retreat as FARE CEO and Chief Medical Officer, James R. Baker, Jr., highlighted how FARE’s research program supports and assists each stage of the decade-long process through which innovative ideas are tested, refined and translated into treatment options. Prospects for the release of approved food allergy therapies have never been closer than today, and the research featured at this year’s retreat holds additional promise for the future.