End Allergies Together Announces Winners of $1 Million Grand Challenge to End Anaphylaxis

EAT Grand Challenge

New microbiome treatments and targets win Challenge as decided by distinguished panel of scientists, investors and entrepreneurs.

Winners to be awarded on February 27 at an event hosted by Bank of America Private Bank in New York City.

FAIRFIELD, Conn., Feb. 12, 2020 — End Allergies Together (E.A.T), a non-profit organization that funds research for the growing food allergy epidemic affecting approximately 32 million Americans, will award an initial $1 Million investment between two efforts.

The first is a joint project between Vedanta Biosciences, Inc., led by Rose Szabady PhD, and Massachusetts General Hospital, led by Wayne Shreffler MD, PhD. It will evaluate the immune mechanisms involved in and the effectiveness of VE416, a first-of-its-kind microbiota therapeutic to restore immune balance in the food allergic intestine.

The second effort, led by Talal Chatila MD, PhD from Boston Children’s Hospital, will look at the protective effect of targeting a new pathway to stop anaphylaxis. 

Both efforts have significant potential for targeted therapies offering long-term protection against food-induced anaphylaxis while simultaneously promoting oral immune tolerance.  The awards event hosted by Bank of America Private Bank will take place on Thursday, February 27 in New York City.

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What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.  Various parts of the body can be affected, and symptoms such as throat tightening or closure, trouble breathing, swollen mouth, hives, dizziness and vomiting can occur within minutes or up to two hours after coming into contact with the allergen.  Up to 20 percent of patients have a second wave of symptoms, called biphasic anaphylaxis, hours or even days after their initial symptoms have subsided.

The most common anaphylactic reactions are to foods, but individuals can also react to insect stings, medication and latex.  With the rates of food allergy affliction now at 1 in 10 people in the U.S. and over 250 million worldwide, the rate of anaphylaxis is increasing. Further, according to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 39 percent of people with anaphylaxis may have had idiopathic anaphylaxis, a reaction that can not be explained by a known trigger.

“Anaphylaxis represents one of the most urgent of medical emergencies, in which rapid diagnosis and prompt and appropriate treatment can mean the difference between life and death… Although there has been steady progress in our understanding especially in the context of mouse models of the disorder… the basic clinical management of anaphylaxis has changed little in decades.” –  Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

The impact of anaphylaxis on the individual and their family can be significant. “The first time I saw my child have an anaphylactic reaction, I was changed forever,” said Hillary Tolle Carter, Food Allergy Mother and Advocate.  “You can no longer accept that food allergies are no big deal.  It affects every aspect of your life. Every time food is involved you have to plan ahead, ask questions and be prepared with safe options for your child. The constant fear of that next anaphylactic reaction can take a serious toll on the entire family.”

E.A.T launched the Anaphylaxis Challenge in the spring of 2019 and brings together communities invested in preventing or ending life-threatening anaphylaxis. The Challenge will accelerate progress by encouraging cooperation among those working within food allergy and across disease states to seek new and better solutions to take the life-threatening fear out of allergic reactions. 

Dozens of researchers from private companies and public institutions entered The Challenge by submitting research business plans with potential solutions to help detect, prevent and/or better treat anaphylaxis (other than administering epinephrine). The award money will serve as seed funding to help accelerate and advance the research and development required to bring these promising treatments closer to commercial viability.

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Winner: Massachusetts General Hospital and Vedanta Biosciences, Inc.

“We are grateful for this recognition from E.A.T as we continue to advance our microbiome-derived product candidate for the potential treatment of food allergies in collaboration with Dr. Shreffler,” said Rose Szabady Ph.D., Associate Director of Immunology, Vedanta Biosciences. “Mounting scientific evidence suggests that the microbiome plays an important role in food allergies, and this award recognizes the importance of further understanding the effects of the microbiota on the human immune system,” continued Szabady. “We believe this work will shed light on the mechanisms by which our interventions modulate allergic immune response, and in turn, support continued development of our product candidate for patients seeking options other than avoidance.” 

Winner: Boston Children’s Hospital

“We are most honored that our project was chosen by E.A.T’s Panel. By targeting an immune mechanism central to the pathogenesis of food allergy and anaphylaxis, we aim not only to prevent this life-threatening complication but also to restore the immune system’s tolerance to the allergenic foods,” said Talal Chatila MD, PhD from Boston Children’s Hospital. “We anticipate our studies will help bring forth a novel set of therapeutics for the treatment of food allergy-related anaphylaxis to the benefit of the patients and their families.”

Honorable Mentions

The Challenge is a multi-year, multi-investment process whereby E.A.T, in collaboration with its Panelists, will provide funds, guidance and hands-on support to the most promising efforts. These include both the immediate awarding of $1 Million to the Winners as well as a commitment to partner with and consider future funding for a select group of Honorable Mentions which includes:

  • Basar Bilgicer, PhD, University of Notre Dame; Erik Eglite, Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, and Mark Kaplan, Indiana University School of Medicine, for their allergen specific cHBI approach which inhibits the allergic reaction to a specific allergen without broad immune suppression.
  • Melanie Dispenza, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins University, for her work in BTK (Bruton’s tyrosine kinase) inhibition for preventing anaphylaxis.
  • Maria Curotto de Lafaille, PhD, and Scott Sicherer, MD, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, for their work in pro-allergic memory B cells and pursuing ways to erase food allergy memory.

Dr. Joon Yun, MD, an E.A.T Challenge Panelist and president of Palo Alto Investors explains the benefit of the Challenge model: “Grand Challenges can help nurture innovations in areas of unmet needs.  The excitement and momentum associated with Grand Challenge competitions can help attract more attention, people, ideas, and funding to the issues of life-threatening anaphylaxis and food allergies.”

Other distinguished Challenge Panelists include:

  • Benjamin Carter, Partner and Portfolio Manager, Southpoint Capital Advisors
  • Marianna Castells, M.D., PhD., Harvard Medical School; Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Eric Edwards, M.D., PhD., Founder Kaléo Pharmaceuticals
  • Stephen J. Galli, M.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Chris Gordon, Managing Director, Private Equity, Bain Capital
  • Ron Laufer, M.D., M.P.H., Founder, Acuris Partners
  • Thomas Platts-Mills, M.D., University of Virginia School of Medicine.
  • Marc Saiontz, Senior Advisor and former Managing Director at American Securities LLC

“I am extremely grateful to our Panelists who committed immense time, thought, analysis and heart to this process over the past six months,” said Elise Bates, President and Cofounder of E.A.T.  “With their guidance and expertise, we have an exciting outcome for this first phase of our Challenge. Both winners have a clear path ahead based on positive results from initial animal and human studies.”

Kindly hosted by Bank of America Private Bank on Thursday, February 27, the awards event will feature the winners and their work as well as a discussion about investing in food allergies with E.A.T Panelists Dr. Eric Edwards and Dr. Joon Yun as well as a representative from Bank of America.

To inquire about this event, please email Tania@endallergiestogether.org

About End Allergies Together (E.A.T)

E.A.T is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused solely on raising money for food allergy research. E.A.T was cofounded in 2015 by Elise and Greg Bates and Kim and Tom Hall, who have children with severe food allergies, to help bridge the significant gap in research funding for this growing epidemic now affecting nearly 1 in 10 Americans and 250 million people globally. Since inception, E.A.T has committed to eleven promising research efforts across thirteen leading institutions.

Press Contacts: 
Kriskey + Lane Communications 
Susan Kriskey, susan@kriskeylane.com 
Marni Lane, marni@kriskeylane.com 

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