FARE Research Retreat Engages Minds and Heart

At the Fifth Annual FARE Research Retreat, held March 31-April1 in McLean, VA, 120 scientists, doctors, drug industry leaders, government officials and patient advocates came together to discuss their studies and hear firsthand how food allergy changes the lives of patients and their families. In a spirit of collaboration, researchers in the U.S. and Europe reported their latest findings from laboratory investigations and clinical trials.

Among the presenters were the five recipients of the 2015 FARE Investigator in Food Allergy Awards. Mid-Career Investigators Eric Wambre, Simon Hogan and Michiko Oyoshi gave progress reports, while New Investigators Jessica O’Konek and Duane Wesemann delivered final reports on the work they completed during two years of FARE funding. The three researchers who were recently granted 2017 FARE Investigator in Food Allergy Awards – New Investigator Edda Fiebiger and Mid-Career Investigators Robert Anthony and Stephanie Eisenbarth – briefly introduced their planned studies.

Talks were given on several desensitization approaches currently in development. Attendees learned about clinical trials for Aimmune’s CODIT (characterized oral desensitization immunotherapy) and DBV’s Viaskin (skin patches for epicutaneous immunotherapy), as well as HAL Allergy’s work on subcutaneous vaccines (injectable immunotherapy). Next-generation approaches to treatment and prevention were also presented, including early research by Fred Finkelman on the use of antibodies to suppress anaphylaxis symptoms, and a clinical trial that took place in London, Geneva, and Valencia to characterize how new allergies to peanut, tree nut, pine nut or sesame arise in individuals who already have one or more of those allergies.

While the scientific presentations were fascinating and insightful, the most inspiring speakers were representatives from FARE’s Outcomes Research Advisory Board (ORAB), which includes parents of children with food allergies, adults with food allergies, health professionals, educators, and advocates. Since Fall 2016, the members of four regional advisory boards have invested thousands of volunteer hours in documenting and sharing their preferences and priorities for food allergy research.

At the Research Retreat, ORAB members spoke movingly of the need for

  • diagnostic tools to help predict reaction outcomes
  • treatments to prevent the most severe symptoms
  • global labeling language that simplifies allergen avoidance without excluding safe options
  • health literacy outreach to ensure that all patients and families have useful information
  • support mechanisms to help remedy the profound psychosocial toll of food allergy

A panel from FARE’s Outcomes Research Advisory Board and researchers in the audience listen to ORAB member Brian Bunning describe the types of diagnostic advances that would be most helpful to food allergy patients.[/caption]

The patient perspective was invaluable in offering scientists and clinicians a new lens on what they do. For example, while researchers value oral food challenges as the most accurate, “gold standard” test for diagnosing food allergy, patient advocates eloquently expressed how traumatic it is to knowingly eat a food that makes you ill.

In his closing remarks, FARE CEO Dr. James R. Baker, Jr., invoked the importance of working together as a unified community toward effective treatment and prevention. Attendees left eager to advance food allergy science on behalf of patients and looking forward to next year’s Research Retreat.