Number of partners
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario
Judah A. Denburg
Director, Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia
A new approach to battling Canada's allergy and asthma epidemic
Conditions like asthma, hay fever, food allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis are sweeping the industrialized world, and Canada is near the top of the list of nations facing a growing problem. Allergic disease affects one in three Canadians and costs our healthcare system and society billions of dollars annually. The launch of the AllerGen NCE in 2004 provided a unique opportunity for researchers from across the country and from different disciplines to work in national and international teams, with public and private sector partners, to improve public health and move solutions to market faster. This collaborative effort is also helping Canada address a critical shortage of allergists, immunologists, clinician-scientists and allergy-related health professionals and educators.
How AllerGen is seizing the opportunity
The Allergy, Genes and Environment Network has mobilized a national network of over 200 researchers, 1,315 active and former students, and more than 225 partners and collaborators (including universities, hospitals, industry, government agencies, charities, school boards and professional organizations) to map a coordinated response aimed at reducing the illness, mortality and socio-economic costs of allergic disease. Together, these network participants represent a critical mass of resources and expertise needed to generate new preventive strategies, diagnostic tests, therapeutic approaches, medications, public policies and patient education.
Among the results
- Data from AllerGen’s Canadian Food Allergy Strategic Team (CanFAST) shows that 7.5% of Canadians have a food allergy, and those with lower education or who immigrated to Canada within the previous 10 years have fewer food allergies than the general population. This team is also identifying the genetic risk for peanut allergy, studying the benefits of oral immunotherapy to treat milk allergy, and developing new strategies to re-program the allergic response, reversing food allergen sensitivity and eliminating anaphylactic reactions.
- The AllerGen-funded Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study of 3,500 children from across Canada continues to generate results from the analysis of data and biological samples. Findings from 2015 CHILD studies include that exposure to outdoor air pollution during the first year of life increases the risk of developing allergies to food, mould, pets and pests, and that differences in babies’ intestinal bacteria can help predict future development of food allergies and asthma.
- AllerGen researchers discovered a new potential antibody treatment that significantly improved symptoms of inflammation and bronchoconstriction in allergic asthma. These findings may lead to an antibody treatment for patients who have problems using inhalers or steroid-based medications for asthma control. The study was conducted by the AllerGen-supported Clinical Investigator Collaborative—an efficient, cost-effective clinical trials consortium that works with industry to fast-track new therapeutics in allergy and asthma.
- AirSENCE is a new sensing device developed by AllerGen researchers and trainees that enables users to measure their personal exposure to outdoor or indoor air pollutants, and to better avoid areas where pollution levels are dangerously high. AirSENCE helped athletes and visitors at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games gauge the local air quality and plan the timing and location of their activities.
- Allergy Pals, an online mentorship program, was developed by an AllerGen research team and licensed to Anaphylaxis Canada, enabling them to provide peer support to children affected by severe food allergies and asthma.
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