New Directions for the Expanded FARE Clinical Network
A Q&A With Bruce Roberts, PhD, FARE’s Chief Research, Science and Innovation Officer
The FARE Clinical Network is a group of top food allergy centers that is led and coordinated by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). In May 2020 the FARE Clinical Network expanded to include 46 participating institutions across 22 states and the nation’s capital. In this interview with Bruce Roberts, who was recently named FARE’s Chief Research, Science and Innovation Officer, you’ll learn more about how the institutions that make up the FARE Clinical Network are working toward better patient care, effective and enduring treatments, advances in prevention and diagnosis, and the fundamental knowledge we need to halt the food allergy epidemic.
What was the rationale for creating the FARE Clinical Network in 2015?
Starting with 22 food allergy centers in 15 states and the District of Columbia, the FARE Clinical Network was initially created to speed the development of effective therapies and diagnostics for patients with food allergy and to improve their quality of care. Institutions participating in the Network have worked with FARE and with each other to reduce discrepancies in care across providers, make state-of-the-art food allergy care and research accessible and available to all patients and families, serve as sites for clinical trials, and investigate best patient care practices.
FARE Clinical Network centers have participated in more than 45 clinical trials in food allergy, including the trials that led to the development and market release of an FDA-approved treatment for peanut allergy in January 2020. Participating institutions have also offered patient and community education and helped to educate a new generation of allergists/immunologists and other care providers in best practices for food allergy prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
How will the expanded FARE Clinical Network be different from the prior network?
The expanded FARE Clinical Network consists of 46 institutions in 22 states and Washington, D.C. An important new aspect of the expansion is the creation of three different types of centers. Discovery Centers will conduct novel research on treatments, diagnostics, prevention and improvements to care. Clinical Research Centers will emphasize clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat food allergy. And Clinical Care Centers will provide exceptional patient care and community education while generating care-based data.
The expanded FARE Clinical Network will continue to build on its first five years of accomplishments. Participating institutions will collaborate to ensure patient access to all aspects of food allergy management and care, including cutting-edge strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. FARE Clinical Network investigations will span every step in the biomedical research process, from benchtop experiments in the laboratory to testing and use in patients.
What are the benefits of having FARE Clinical Network centers emphasize discovery research, clinical research or clinical care? Can patients receive clinical care at a Discovery Center or Clinical Research Center?
The three type of centers within the expanded FARE Clinical Network draw on the individual strengths of each participating institution while ensuring that top-quality care is available in more communities. All three types of centers provide exceptional clinical care and community leadership on behalf of patients with food allergy. Discovery Centers and Clinical Research Centers also participate in multi-center clinical trials and are helping to train the next generation of investigators in food allergy. In addition, Discovery Centers will develop and collaborate on translational research that will compete for outside funding. (Translational research is cross-disciplinary biomedical research that applies laboratory discoveries to patient care to advance the development of treatments and improve patient outcomes.)
What are the key priorities for the expanded FARE Clinical Network?
The expanded FARE Clinical Network will be harnessed to expedite and streamline clinical trial development, emphasizing food allergy prevention and durable food allergy treatments. Research priorities include:
- Achieving Long-Term Desensitization to Multiple Allergens. Approaches could include combining biologic drugs with allergen immunotherapies or with probiotics, as well as innovative vaccines.
- Developing Preventative Therapies. Among possible strategies to be evaluated for food allergy prevention are introducing age-appropriate allergen-containing foods to infants, plus probiotics, biologic drugs, and other methods for modulating the activity of the immune system.
- Assessing and Monitoring Disease Activity. Research initiatives will search for biological markers that can be used to predict food allergy development and outcomes and to diagnose and monitor food allergy while eliminating the need for oral food challenges.
- Understanding Disease Biology. Fundamental investigations will shed light on factors influencing food allergy, including pathways that link the gut and-brain, interactions between genetics and environment, and long-term studies to uncover why food allergy outcomes are so variable.
How does the expanded FARE Clinical Network interact with other elements of FARE’s research infrastructure, including the FARE Patient Registry, the Data Coordinating Center and the Biobank and Biomarker Discovery Center?
The FARE Patient Registry is a secure database of health information that allows patients and caregivers to share their unique food allergy experiences to help answer critical questions and deepen understanding of the disease. The FARE Clinical Network centers help to enroll new participants into the FARE Patient Registry and in turn, provide investigators access to de-identified data stored in the Registry to further their research.
The FARE Clinical Network will also include a Biobank and Biomarker Discovery Center. FARE Clinical Network centers will contribute to this biorepository, providing deindentified (anonymous) biological samples linked to deindentified electronic medical records data, creating an unsurpassed tool to support research efforts.
The Data Coordinating Center will be responsible for coordinating the procedures and logistics of multi-center clinical trials within the FARE Clinical Network. This oversight will help keep trials on track and ensure the value of trial results in advancing research efforts.
Ultimately, all of these data sources will be accessible through the FARE Data Commons, a state-of-the-art, secure, centralized food allergy patient data platform that incorporates electronic data from the FARE Patient Registry, FARE Clinical Network, FARE Biobank and Biomarker Discovery Center and other partnered data sources of clinical research, clinical care and patient data. The goal of the FARE Data Commons will be to enable medical entities worldwide to share and access privacy-protected data in one common place (physical or virtual) and collaborate to drive research forward.