Insights Shared at Research Retreat to Shape Future Food Allergy Care

On Saturday, April 13, food allergy investigators and patient advocates came together in McLean, VA, for the Seventh Annual FARE Research Retreat. The gathering included 120 clinicians, industry representatives, scientists in academia and public service, and directors from the 33 Centers of Excellence in the FARE Clinical Network. Together, they shared experimental findings and explored new opportunities to fulfill FARE’s mission: to improve the quality of life and health for patients with food allergy and provide hope through the promise of new treatments.

Photo courtesy of Lianne Mandelbaum

Many of the Research Retreat presentations emphasized the need for patient-centered treatment, both in drug development and through mental health support services to help patients and families cope with stress and anxiety arising from severe reactions, oral food challenges, clinical trials and constant vigilance. Past members of FARE’s Outcomes Research Advisory Board laid out four ambitious goals for the near-future: (1) developing a food allergy training program for mental health professionals, (2) carrying out a national assessment of patient’s beliefs and goals relating to food allergy, (3) designing a decision tool to assist individual patients and health care providers in charting their course of food allergy treatment, and (4) creating accurate and comprehensive measures of treatment outcomes from the patient’s perspective.

Attendees heard about food allergy treatments at various stages of drug development, from laboratory proof-of-concept research to early safety testing, small-scale safety and effectiveness studies, large-scale clinical trials, and applications submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to market new therapies. These prospective treatments include food allergen immunotherapies, antibody-based biologic drugs, immunotherapy combined with biologic drugs, and novel ways to deliver potentially protective microbial products to the gut. One of the speakers captured this exciting time: “In a couple of years we could be talking with our patients, not about one therapy or two therapies. What I’m really enthused about is the possibility that in a few years we can actually sit with families and talk about multiple different approaches to their food allergy.”

Additional presenters, including the five FARE Investigators in Food Allergy who received mid-career awards in 2015 and 2017, discussed fundamental studies that shed light on aspects of food allergy and food tolerance. These speakers examined the influences of diverse cells and molecules in the immune system, structures of the skin and gut, and involvement of the microbiome – the microorganisms that live in and on the body. Each offered tantalizing prospects for new biomarkers for food allergy that could play future roles in diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

The value of FARE research funding was highlighted by the three 2015 FARE Investigators in Food Allergy award recipients, each of which has now received additional support from the National Institutes of Health. FARE’s seed money investment in their trailblazing research projects has enabled these investigators to develop the promising preliminary data they needed to successfully apply for federal grants and make future contributions towards the science of food allergy.

As FARE sets out on a five-year plan to raise a historic amount of funding for research, therapies and diagnostics, we look forward to reporting further progress towards optimal patient care for the community we serve.