What's up? The FARE FAITH Challenge
Food allergies affect up to 32 million Americans, approximately 8% of those younger than 18. Approximately 170 foods have been reported to cause food allergies, of which 9 account for 95% of reactions — eggs, crustacean shellfish, fish, milk, peanuts, seeds (e.g., sesame), soy, tree nuts and wheat.
Diagnosing food allergy is an imperfect process. Physicians use a combination of patient histories, skin testing, blood testing, and sometimes oral food challenges to diagnose food allergy. The oral food challenge is the gold standard for diagnosing food allergy.
It can take families months (even years to depending on the provider), to bubble up to the top of a wait list for an oral food challenge. Then parents may need to take time off from work and children may need to miss a day of school to undergo the challenge which often takes the better part of a day. As a parent, you are also sometimes tasked with preparing the food your child will consume during the challenge.
Sometimes food challenges are conducted at an allergist's office. Sometimes they are conducted in a hospital setting. During a food challenge, a patient is dosed with a known (or suspected) allergen over a period of hours until either a reaction occurs, or not. If a reaction occurs, the patient has 'failed' the challenge and is allergic to the allergen he/she consumed. If no reaction occurs, the patient has 'passed' the challenge and is not allergic to the allergen he/she consumed.
About 2% of oral food challenges result in anaphylaxis: hundreds of thousands of these test are administered annually, meaning thousands of patients experience this adverse, life threatening testing outcome.
The food challenge process can be a nail-biting experience for both patients and their families.
Imagine having to repeatedly take small bites of a food that has made you really sick in the past, or that you suspect has made you sick in the past.
Imagine taking small bites again and again over hours, fearing that the next bite will be the one that makes you react, not knowing how serious that reaction might be (a couple hives? vomiting? anaphylaxis?)
Imagine the deep disappointment when the test is discontinued because a reaction occurs. While the patient and their family do gain some clarity about the food allergy (yup, not outgrown! yup, still allergic! yup, still really allergic), the mental and emotional toll can be considerable.
The FARE FAITH Challenge is a multi-year competition designed to put an end to oral food challenges and create a new, safe and compassionate method to accurately diagnose patients with food allergies. According to Lisa Gable, Fare's CEO, the "FAITH Challenge is designed to galvanize the best researchers and innovators in the world to action – alone or in collaboration – to reach a breakthrough solution to the food allergy testing problem."
FARE has built a $3 Million war chest for the research competition with generous donations from corporate and private donors. As per FARE's fact sheet:
A $1 million cash prize will be awarded to the team – or teams – that successfully designs a new gold standard diagnostic tool for food allergies. Interim diagnostic advancements will also receive interim cash awards from a total FAITH funding pool of $3 million.
FAITH seeks to bring together the world’s most insightful and creative researchers from food allergy and immunology, biopharma and healthcare. Researchers in adjacent disease research categories are encouraged to join the FAITH Challenge.
Research submissions will be reviewed, tracked and appraised by a panel of judges comprising experts in the fields of food allergy and immunology from both academia and the private sector.
This competition and the outcome will be one to keep an eye on. Thank you, FARE, for spearheading this initiative!
More details are available here.
Allergy Force seeks to keep the food allergy community updated on research initiatives that have potential — now and in the future — to help them live fully with less fear, less anxiety and more confidence.
Image Credit: Image compiled from FARE website imagery.