To Take on Food Allergies, This Group is Funding a Two-Front War

Grants for medical research can lead to the development of life-saving therapies and curesin the future. People with serious food allergies definitely need effective future drugs, but if they're having an anaphylactic attack, they also need medical care right this minute. Even better: care that can prevent attacks.

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), one of the main nonprofits focused on food allergies, recently announced an initiative to fund both research for tomorrow and clinical care right now, the better to keep the 15 million Americans at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis breathing easy in a world filled with peanuts, shellfish, eggs, soy, tree nuts, fish, wheat, corn and other common foods that can trigger reactions.

The recently announced FARE Clinical Network aims to accelerate the development of new drugs for people with food allergies, as well as to improve quality of medical care available now. FARE will initially fund 22 clinical centers with an investment of $2 million annually, including children's hospitals and university medical centers across the U.S. More institutions will be announced soon.

“We need to push for the development of drugs and other therapies to prevent life-threatening food allergy reactions, while ensuring that children and adults with food allergy receive the best care possible,” said James R. Baker, Jr., MD, CEO and chief medical officer of FARE.

About one in 50 Americans have food allergies, but it's more common among childrenwhere it's about one in 13which is no surprise to anyone with a child in school.

Recently, this health threat has received more attention from funders with personal connections to the issue. We wrote earlier this year about Napster/Facebook billionaire and food allergy sufferer Sean N. Parker's recent pledge of $24 million to Stanford University School of Medicine for a food allergy research center. And in 2012, David and Julie Koch gave $10 million to the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, established in part with support from Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe, in the late 1990s.

Even if you don't have a food allergy, you know someone who does, and it's scary: People have to walk on eggshells (assuming they're not allergic to eggs) around food venues where they're not in control of every ingredient. That's probably why more than half of FARE's annual revenues (about $17 million last year) come from individual donations, with income from special events comprising much of the rest, along with smaller amounts from corporate giving, educational and other initiatives.

Since allergies are disorders of the immune system, which keeps us alive every day, allergy research could lead to insights for disease and treatments throughout medicine.