AllerGen Success Stories
Review of latest food allergy research in Journal of Asthma and Allergy
AllerGen researchers have published a review of new and emerging options for the diagnosis and management of food allergies.
The article, "Diagnosis and management of food allergies: new and emerging options: a systematic review," reviewed 100 articles published between 2009 and 2014. Diagnostic tests such as skin prick tests, serum IgE and component testing, as well as management techniques including primary prevention, complementary medicine, allergen avoidance and immunotherapy were evaluated.
“This review demonstrates that a collaborative approach, including a suggestive history and the use of confirmatory tests, is essential for the diagnosis of food allergy,” says AllerGen investigator Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, a pediatric allergist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “In addition, recent studies suggest that secondary and primary prevention of food- induced allergic reactions are possible.” Dr. Ben-Shoshan and AllerGen trainees Dr. Andrew O’Keefe, Jennifer Mill, Christopher Mill, Alizee Dery and Dr. Sarah De Schryver are co-authors on the paper.
Is going gluten-free good for your health?
In an October 2014 CBC Marketplace episode called “The Truth Behind the Trend,” CBC host Tom Harrington asked AllerGen investigator Professor Timothy Caulfield about the recent popularity in gluten-free diets.
Caulfield, a University of Alberta law professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, cautions there is a “downside” to gluten-free products, which are often more expensive and contain more calories, sodium and sugar than regular breads, pastas and crackers.
With respect to potential health benefits, Caulfield states that the gluten-free placebo effect “is real and it’s powerful. However, it is very difficult to make direct causal relationships between going gluten-free and feeling better or having more energy. There is no evidence to support that conclusion.”
AllerGen epigenetics researcher awarded a Canada Research Chair
Dr. Kobor is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at The University of British Columbia (UBC) and an expert in epigenetics—the relationship between genes and the environment.
His research team studies the mechanisms by which environmental exposures and life experiences can “get under the skin” to regulate the activity of genes, and contribute to health and disease throughout the life course of an individual. The research focuses on the epigenetic underpinnings of respiratory diseases, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and mental health trajectories.
Dr. Kobor also leads an AllerGen-funded project called Rapid Environmental Effects on Genes: the Lens of Epigenetics (REEGLE) that examines how environmental exposures in early life can affect the on-off setting of genes and influence the development of allergic diseases and asthma.
REEGLE aims to determine if exposure to common environmental allergens such as diesel exhaust, particulate matter and pollen affects the genes through DNA methylation patterns and to test for an association between such exposures and risk of allergic disease.
In DNA methylation, a specific chemical modification called a methyl group is added to the DNA backbone. If methylation occurs in a particular region of a gene, the gene function may be altered without affecting the underlying DNA.
“Any gene can have its activity regulated, in part by DNA methylation,” says Dr. Kobor. “DNA methylation acts like a dimmer control on a light switch that allows the light to be turned on and off, or dialled up and down.”
Dr. Kobor is one of 137 new and renewed Research Chairs across the country receiving $118 million of new funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Global News asks: Why are food allergies on the rise?
In a recent Global News interview, AllerGen researchers Dr. Paul Keith and Dr. Susan Waserman addressed the rise of food allergies in Canada and highlighted the potential causes.
Dr. Keith, an allergist and president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, identified several potential factors contributing to the development of food allergies, including a clean water supply—clean water reduces the number of parasitic infections that could be protective—and pregnancy-related factors such as cesarean section and antibiotic use that can affect the helpful bacteria living in our gut.
Food preparation techniques, environmental pollutants, insufficient Vitamin D, and a delay in the introduction of potentially allergenic foods to children are also possibly at play, according to Dr. Waserman, an allergist and immunologist at McMaster University.
AllerGen trainee interviews Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall in Nature
Dr. Meghan Azad recently interviewed the scientist who risked his health to prove his theory about the link between stomach ulcers and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.
Doctors can help asthma patients reduce their exposure to air pollution
Physicians can help their patients with asthma by recommending ways to reduce their individual exposure to air pollution, according to a new publication by AllerGen researchers, Drs Michelle North, Anne Ellis and Chris Carlsten, and co-author Dr. Neil Alexis.
The paper was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). It presented the case of a 38-year-old woman who rode her bicycle to work each day and began experiencing wheezing at the end of her 30-minute commute. The woman’s allergist determined that a recent change in her bicycle route brought the patient within 300 metres of major roadways for 70% of her commute. The physician mapped out an alternative cycling route, reducing the patient’s exposure to air pollution and resulting in an improvement in asthma symptoms.
"This article was targeted towards physicians with the message that it is time for better integration of the existing public health knowledge of the effects of air pollution into practice, and specifically into asthma action plans,” says AllerGen trainee Dr. Michelle North, a post-doctoral fellow at Queen’s University and lead author on the paper. “The case we presented showed that counselling patients on ways to reduce their air pollution exposure can have a positive effect on individual asthma patients."
Greater peanut avoidance found in siblings of children with peanut allergy
A new study involving several AllerGen researchers has found that more than 10% of siblings of children with peanut allergies have never been introduced to peanuts, and siblings born after the diagnosis of a peanut allergic child are more likely to have never been exposed.
The paper, “Peanut avoidance and peanut allergy diagnosis in siblings of peanut allergic children,” used data from 748 families registered with the Canadian Peanut Allergy Registry. It also found that almost 9% of siblings were reported as peanut allergic, though in nearly 50% of cases, the diagnosis was made without having a history of an allergic reaction or undergoing confirmatory testing.
The study, published online in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, is featured in Wiley's News Round-Up, a biweekly mailing that promotes a selection of the most newsworthy research published across Wiley's journals.
The study involved the work of AllerGen researchers Drs Ann Clarke (University of Calgary), Edmond Chan (The University of British Columbia), Yuka Asai and Moshe Ben-Shoshan (McGill University); allergy specialists from McGill University and Humber River Regional Hospital; and AllerGen partners Anaphylaxis Canada and Allergy/Asthma Information Association.
"This is the largest group of siblings assessed in the medical literature so far,” says Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, a pediatric allergist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “Our study reveals that a substantial number of siblings born after a child in the family is diagnosed with a peanut allergy are not introduced to peanut by the ages of 3 and 5 years, and may even be presumed to have peanut allergy without a history of an allergic reaction or clinical testing. These findings are especially concerning given that recent studies suggest that delayed exposure may be associated with increased risk of peanut allergy."
University of Manitoba allergist featured in online video
Dr. Allan Becker, Professor of Allergy & Clinical Immunology at the University of Manitoba and AllerGen investigator, discusses the signs and symptoms of anaphylactic reactions, and what to do in the case of an anaphylactic reaction in a new online video.
Call for Applications for AllerGen-Stanford Fellowship in food allergy extended
The Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR)/AllerGen Research Fellowship Award will co-fund a $50,000 award for a Canadian investigator (PhD or MD) with an interest in the prevention and treatment of severe food allergies to pursue academic research training with Dr. Kari Nadeau at Stanford University.
Dr. Nadeau leads translational research and clinical studies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and directs the Nadeau Laboratory at Stanford.
The Call for Applications for this award will remain open until a suitable candidate has been found.
SquareOff features AllerGen investigator to speak on banning foods in schools
Dr. Paul Keith, an AllerGen investigator and president of the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology), recently discussed anaphylaxis and the role of banning foods in schools with SquareOff, a Hamilton-based daily news show.
“What you have to do is teach the child not to eat anything that may be contaminated with the food that they’re anaphylactic to,” says Dr. Keith, an associate professor at McMaster University. “The school board must look at each situation individually and do what is right for that child.”
AllerGen awards $250,000 for advanced allergy research
AllerGen is pleased to announce that Dr. Marylin Desjardins (McGill University and The Montreal Children's Hospital) has been awarded the prestigious AllerGen Emerging Clinician-Scientist Research Fellowship, valued at $250,000.
This is the third Fellowship awarded by AllerGen, with the aim of addressing the shortage of allergy and clinical immunology expertise in Canada.
“AllerGen is pleased to support Dr. Desjardins’s research training and her goal of becoming an independent clinician-scientist in the field of allergy and immunology,” says AllerGen’s Scientific Director and CEO, Dr. Judah Denburg. “I am confident that Dr. Desjardins’s research will benefit Canadians living with allergies, asthma and immune deficiencies.”
AllerGen launches first globally-accessible allergy and asthma molecular network database
AllerGen’s Allergy and Asthma Portal (AAP)—a unique, web-accessible database that houses over 900 biomolecular interactions relevant to allergy and asthma—is now open to the public.
The AAP is the first resource of its kind and is available for use by allergy and asthma researchers worldwide. It represents the most comprehensive database of the genes, proteins, biomolecular interactions and pathways associated with immunity and allergic diseases, and will aid in the development of new therapies for allergies and asthma.
Read the press release
Microbiome researcher consults on “Microbirth” documentary
AllerGen investigator Anita Kozyrskyj is a contributor to “Microbirth”—a new documentary that examines how modern birth practices may be interfering with the “seeding” of a baby's microbiome.
The documentary interviews prominent scientists from the UK and North America about the importance of the transfer of good bacteria from mother to baby at birth, and the link between the way babies are born and health in later life, particularly the increased risk of children developing asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Dr. Kozyrskyj is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta and Co-Principal Investigator of a $2.5 million research project titled Synergy in Microbiota Research (SyMBIOTA). SyMBIOTA uses data from AllerGen’s CHILD Study to look at the makeup of the infant microbiome and how variations in this internal ecosystem affect health and disease later in life.
“Microbirth” premieres Saturday, September 20, 2014 in public screenings around the world.
New online course helps educators to keep allergic kids safe at school
Anaphylaxis Canada has launched a new online course to help teachers, administrators and educational staff to keep allergic students safe at school.
Anaphylaxis in Schools: What Educators Need to Know is a free, bilingual resource available to schools across the country. The course incorporates graphics, audio narration, practice scenarios, and step-by-step visual guides to help educators prevent and manage emergency situations at school.
This course is the first in a series of three anaphylaxis training programs developed in collaboration with Leap Learning Technologies Inc. and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI), with support from AllerGen NCE and McMaster University. Additional courses targeted to members of the community, including parents, caregivers, childcare centres and the general public will be released in 2015. The prevalence and incidence of allergy and anaphylaxis are on the rise in Canada. In 2012, a nationwide study found that about 2.5 million Canadians, or one in every 13 people, self-report a significant food allergy. Many people with food allergies are not properly diagnosed, and a food allergy that could cause anaphylaxis—a sudden, life-threatening reaction—can develop at any time in life.
Fewer food allergies among new immigrants and Canadians with low education
AllerGen researchers have found that Canadians with lower education and new Canadians (individuals who immigrated to Canada within the last 10 years) have fewer food allergies than the general population.
The researchers collected data from 5,734 households, representing over 15,000 Canadians from low income, immigrant and Aboriginal populations.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, helps researchers to better understand the lived experiences of food allergies in vulnerable populations.
Read the press release here
AllerGen investigator, partner organization help launch epinephrine auto-injector pilot project in Hamilton
A pilot project, led by the City of Hamilton and involving McMaster University and AllerGen partner Anaphylaxis Canada, is being launched today (September 8, 2014) in Hamilton. The project will analyze the effects of stocking epinephrine auto-injectors at Jackson Square shopping mall, and of training mall security guards to recognize an anaphylactic reaction and to administer the auto-injectors. The analysis will be conducted by a research team headed by AllerGen investigator Dr. Susan Waserman.
For more information, read the press release here.
Early-life shifts in gut microbes can increase susceptibility to inflammatory lung disease
Allergy researchers at The University of British Columbia (UBC) have found that antibiotic use in early life alters gut bacteria and enhances future susceptibility to inflammatory lung disease.
Canadian newborns are routinely exposed to antibiotics
In a new study published August 13, 2014, by The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, AllerGen trainee Ryan Persaud and a team of AllerGen researchers found that Canadian newborns are routinely exposed to antibiotics immediately before or after birth.
New study links antibiotic use to overweight in children
A new study by AllerGen researchers has shown that children treated with antibiotics in the first year of life are more than twice as likely to be overweight later in childhood compared to children who were unexposed.
The study, published online in the International Journal of Obesity, linked provincial health records of antibiotic use with data from 616 children involved in a longitudinal birth cohort study. It found that 32.4% of children who received antibiotics in the first year of life were overweight by age 12 compared to 18.2% of children who did not receive antibiotics.
The study involved the work of AllerGen researchers Drs Anita Kozyrskyj, Meghan Azad and Sarah Bridgman (University of Alberta), and Dr. Allan Becker (University of Manitoba), using data from the Study of Asthma, Genes and the Environment (SAGE) birth cohort.
AllerGen trainee reports back from meeting with Nobel Laureates
Read Dr. Meghan Azad's informal report on her participation in the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, available here.
Dr. Azad thanks the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for nominating her for inclusion in the event and for sponsoring her participation.
AllerGen researcher funded to lead worldwide study of air pollution and disease
Dr. Michael Brauer, an AllerGen investigator and a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at The University of British Columbia (UBC), is leading a new study that will provide an unparalleled worldwide analysis of the relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
“PURE AIR: A Global Assessment of Air Pollution and Respiratory and Cardiovascular Disease within the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological Study” has received a four-year, $753,000 operating grant from the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health.
The award will support Dr. Brauer and a team of seven researchers, including AllerGen research leader Dr. Paul O’Byrne, to conduct the first worldwide health study on the impacts of both outdoor and household air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The study will use an existing international cohort: the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological Study (PURE), led by Dr. Salim Yusuf of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University. PURE has recruited 155,000 individuals residing in 628 communities in 17 countries and 5 continents, with follow-up completed for four years and continuing for a further six.
PURE AIR will use novel satellite-based approaches to estimate outdoor air pollution levels, as well as targeted air pollution monitoring for all communities. Household air pollution will be estimated using detailed information already collected on the heating and cooking methods, fuel types and ventilation practices used in the PURE study participants' homes.
The results will help to determine the relationship between outdoor and household air pollution exposures and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as key relevant risk factors, such as blood pressure and lung function.
CHILD research team awarded five-year CIHR grant
Dr. Malcolm Sears, an AllerGen research leader and a professor of medicine at McMaster University, together with a team of CHILD researchers from across Canada, has received a five-year operating grant, valued at over $1 million, from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health. The CHILD Study application was ranked first among 65 proposals reviewed by the respiratory committee in the March 2014 competition.
The project, titled “Early Life Determinants of Asthma,” will use data from over 3,300 infants in the CHILD birth cohort study to explore how selected environmental factors affect allergies and asthma in children with different Genetic Risk Scores (GRS).
A GRS for asthma has recently been developed: the higher an individual's score, the more likely is life-long asthma; however, it is not known how environmental exposures influence this genetic risk.
AllerGen investigators Drs Sonia Anand, Jeffrey Brook and PJ Subbarao are also Principal Investigators for the project.
AllerGen and Canadian Respiratory Research Network (CRRN) partner to invest in grants for early career investigators
AllerGen will partner in the Emerging Research Leaders Initiative (ERLI)—an establishment grant program for researchers at the transition stage from post-doctoral fellow to early career professional in the areas of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and/or respiratory health research. This multi-partnered initiative is led by the Canadian Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and includes organizational partners from non-profit, government, industry, and emerging / existing Networks of Centres of Excellence.
The grant, valued at $150,000 ($50,000 per year for three years), is intended to assist new investigators in establishing independent health research programs and achieving the research productivity necessary to obtain major funding from national and other external granting agencies. A successful CRRN applicant whose research aligns with AllerGen’s mission and research scope is eligible for additional funding of $12,000/year for the length of the award.
CLICK HERE for more information on the Emerging Research Leaders Initiative.
Application submission deadline - September 15, 2014
AllerGen investigator chosen for 2014 “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”
An AllerGen investigator is among 90 Canadians named in Thomson Reuters' new compilation of "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014."
Dr. Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University, was ranked as a top influencer in the category of "computer science" for her work in the area of bioinformatics.
Thomson Reuters identified the most influential scientists by analyzing citation data over the last decade. Roughly 3,200 researchers worldwide earned the distinction by ranking among the top 1% "most cited" in 21 broad fields of the sciences and social sciences.
Dr. Brinkman is an expert in the emerging field of bioinformatics—the use of computers to gather, store, analyze and integrate biological and genetic information, which can then be used to study how diseases develop.
Dr. Brinkman heads an AllerGen project to develop an Allergy and Asthma Portal—a web-accessible resource that combines data from the scientific literature with AllerGen research to aid more integrated, advanced studies of molecular networks involved in allergic diseases.
She has also developed Innate DB—an integrated database of the genes, proteins, molecular interactions and pathways involved in allergic responses. This resource provides a platform for sophisticated investigations of asthma and allergy responses and can be combined with bioinformatics and visualization tools for more holistic, systems-level analyses that were not previously possible.
Currently, Dr. Brinkman is conducting a Network-wide assessment of AllerGen data to identify data integration opportunities, leading to new insights in allergic disease.
Network members contribute to new volume on the study of mast cells
AllerGen investigator Dr. Kelly McNagny (The University of British Columbia) is co-editor of a new edition of "Mast Cells: Methods and Protocols," a volume in the Methods in Molecular Biology series published by Humana Press. The text is intended for the use of professionals and practitioners, and provides a sampler of methods and techniques in the further study of mast cell biology.
Among the contributors to the volume are 12 AllerGen-associated co-authors: seven investigators, one partner and four Highly Qualified Personnel.
This second edition expands upon the first with current, detailed reviews covering mast cell neophytes and cognoscenti alike, and features cutting-edge, readily reproducible protocols.
CIC investigators test new drug for allergic asthma
Researchers in AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC) have shown that a new drug (quilizumab) successfully blocks the production of an immune system protein, reducing symptoms of allergic asthma.
The study, led by Dr. Gail Gauvreau (McMaster University), was conducted by CIC investigators at six Canadian universities and one international site, and published in the July 2, 2014, issue of Science Translational Medicine.
Quilizumab, manufactured by Genentech, is a new monoclonal antibody that targets a receptor on immature blood cells to block the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a key protein involved in the allergic response. While other drugs bind to circulating IgE, quilizumab acts by depleting the cells responsible for IgE production even before it occurs, according to Dr. Gauvreau.
"The reduction of IgE in the blood was sustained for at least six months after the last dose of quilizumab, suggesting a long-lasting effect on IgE production," says Dr. Gauvreau. "These findings may have implications for patients with severe asthma or other diseases which are caused by high levels of circulating IgE."
A follow-up clinical trial involving a larger group of subjects with more severe asthma is underway.
Fresh “face” ready to meet Nobel Laureates
AllerGen trainee and gut microbiome researcher Dr. Meghan Azad has been featured in the “Faces” series leading up to The 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physiology or Medicine), be held June 29-July 4, 2014, in Lindau, Germany.
The “Faces” blog series profiles just a few of the remarkable young scientists who will attend the prestigious meeting that unites more than 30 Nobel Prize winners with 600 of the world’s brightest young scientists.
“I would like to sincerely thank the CIHR for supporting my research and nominating me to attend the Lindau Nobel Meeting. I would also like to acknowledge my mentor, Dr. Anita Kozyrskj, and my colleagues at the CHILD study, the SyMBIOTA research team, and AllerGen Network Centre of Excellence, for their guidance, support and collaboration,” says Dr. Azad.
CHILD Study news to reach 700,000 through Toronto Star
A new digital media campaign on asthma and allergies featuring an online article about AllerGen’s CHILD Study was released on June 12, 2014. The CHILD Study article provides an introduction to the study, its preliminary findings, and the promise the study holds for future prevention and treatment of asthma and other chronic diseases. Drs Malcolm Sears, PJ Subbarao and Stuart Turvey are featured.
Look for the print version of the CHILD Study article in a special supplement to the Toronto Star newspaper on Saturday, June 28, 2014!
Global TV spotlights "Allergy Pals" program
Anaphylaxis Canada's "Allergy Pals," an online peer support and mentorship program for children with severe food allergies, was recently profiled by Global TV News (Edmonton).
Dr. Miriam Stewart and a team from the University of Alberta developed the mentoring program with support from AllerGen NCE. "The importance of peers is that each of the children in the group understands what it's like to live with allergies", notes Dr. Stewart, adding that the mentoring focuses mainly on how kids can "live normal lives despite coping with allergies - at school, in sports and having fun..."
View the clip here.
CIC investigators publish new findings for allergic asthma
Researchers at AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC) have discovered that an antibody can block a specific protein in the lungs and reduce the symptoms of inflammation and bronchoconstriction experienced by people with mild allergic asthma.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted at five CIC sites across the country and involved the work of AllerGen Network researchers Dr. Gail Gauvreau, Dr. Paul O'Byrne, Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet, Dr. Donald Cockcroft, Dr. Mark FitzGerald, Dr. Beth Davis and Dr. Richard Leigh.
Epithelial cells in the lung's airways produce a protein called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) that causes inflammation. This study proved for the first time that epithelial cells continually produce TSLP in humans with asthma and that blocking TSLP with an antibody can reduce the symptoms of mild allergic asthma.
These findings have implications for the development of new antibody treatments not only for allergic asthma, but for severe asthma as well, according to Dr. O'Byrne. Dr. Gavreau presented the study at the American Thoracic Society conference in San Diego, CA.
AllerGen-Stanford collaboration advances food allergy research
A new collaboration between AllerGen and Stanford University will allow young Canadian scientists to pursue advanced food allergy research with Dr. Kari Nadeau, a renowned expert in adult and pediatric allergies.
The Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR)/AllerGen Research Fellowship Award will co-fund a $50,000 award for a Canadian investigator (PhD or MD) with an interest in the prevention and treatment of severe food allergies to pursue academic research training with Dr. Nadeau at Stanford University.
Dr. Nadeau leads translational research and clinical studies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and directs the Nadeau Laboratory at Stanford. Her work studies the mechanisms involved in food allergies, oral immunotherapy for multiple food allergies, and eosinophilic esophagitis. To learn more about SAFAR and Dr. Nadeau’s work, click here.
Dr. Michael Brauer honoured for research on asthma and the environment
Dr. Michael Brauer, a Professor at the School of Population and Public Health, The University of British Columbia, and an AllerGen Principal Investigator, has been named as the first recipient of the Asthma Society of Canada’s Bastable-Potts Asthma Research Prize. The award, valued this year at $10,000, recognizes innovative Canadian research that adds to the body of knowledge on asthma and its relationship to environmental exposures. Read the press release.
Dr. Brauer also received one of three For Life and Breath Innovation Awards, which celebrate the contributions of individuals whose work has dramatically helped to improve the lives of Canadians with asthma and respiratory allergies. The award was presented on April 30, 2014, during the Asthma Society of Canada’s For Life and Breath: Environment, Asthma and Allergy Summit.
Allergy Pals - Online Mentorship for Kids with Food Allergies
Anaphylaxis Canada has launched Allergy Pals, an online mentorship program designed to provide peer support and mentoring to children (ages 7-11) affected by severe food allergies.
Allergy Pals offers eight online support sessions led by older peer mentors with food allergies. Sessions include interactive activities, including brainstorming, problem solving, goal setting and developing effective coping strategies in a safe and secure online environment.
The program materials were designed by Dr. Miriam Stewart, a Professor of Nursing, and her team at the University of Alberta, with research funding provided by AllerGen NCE. Anaphylaxis Canada, one of the project’s collaborators, has licensed the program in order to support children and teens affected by life threatening allergies.
The first session of Allergy Pals will run from May 18 to July 6, 2014. Click here for more information and to register for the program.
Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet named CIHR 2014 Distinguished Lecturer in Respiratory Sciences
AllerGen investigator Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet was presented the 2014 CIHR-ICRH-CTS Distinguished Lecturer in Respiratory Sciences award during the 7th annual Canadian Respiratory Conference (CRC) held in Calgary, Alberta, from April 24-26, 2014.
As part of the honour, Dr. Boulet delivered a keynote lecture at the conference: "From Asthma Pathophysiology to Knowledge Translation: A Journey Through Airways and Human Behaviour," in which he reviewed various aspects of research on asthma, airway function and inflammation/remodelling.
Dr. Boulet is a lung specialist at l'Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec (iuCPQ), a professor of medicine at Laval University's Department of Medicine, and a site leader of AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC).
Established in 2006 by the CIHR's Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (ICRH) and the Canadian Thoracic Society (CTS), this annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of respiratory sciences in Canada.
Read the CIHR announcement about Dr. Boulet's award here.
AllerGen to host French-language forum on asthma
Join AllerGen and a panel of Montreal’s leading asthma experts in an engaging public forum about asthma: what provokes it, what exacerbates it, and what can be done to control or prevent it.
The free French-language event will be held on Monday, May 12, 2014, from 7-9 p.m. in the Town Hall of the town of Mont-Royal, QC, and will focus on preventing and managing asthma spikes among school-aged children.
Speakers: Dr. Francine Ducharme (pediatric allergist); Dr. Marie-Josee Francoeur (pediatric allergist); Dr. Louis Jacques, (prevention and public health specialist); and Jocelyne Bouchard (RN/asthma educator).
For more information (in French) or to register to attend the event, visit http://asthme.eventbrite.ca.
Anaphylaxis Canada hosts 7th Annual Community Conference
Anaphylaxis Canada will host its 7th Annual Community Conference, Managing food allergies: Working together for a safer future, on Saturday, May 10, 2014, at the Delta Hotel in Markham, Ontario.
This interactive, informative event will feature:
- Workshops, panel discussions and presentations by clinical experts
- Exhibits showcasing products and services from local and national vendors
- Information on food allergy bullying, understanding anxiety in kids with food allergies, and much more
The conference is open to patients, families, educators, healthcare professionals and community members interested in learning about food allergy and anaphylaxis management.
To register, visit the Anaphylaxis Canada website at http://www.anaphylaxis.ca/
Homeopaths are now medical experts?
Professor Timothy Caulfield, an AllerGen investigator and a University of Alberta professor of health law and science policy, recently wrote that the inclusion of an advocate of homeopathic medicine on an expert health panel for CBC’s “The National” does not provide a legitimate source of evidence-based health information.
Read Professor Caulfield’s “Open Letter to CBC's Peter Mansbridge” published as a guest post by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff on his blog site, Weighty Matters.
AllerGen trainee receives competitive leadership award
University of Toronto (U of T), PhD student, Natalia Mykhaylova, has received the Professor Douglas Reeve Leaders of Tomorrow Award. This award recognizes graduate students in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry who have shown the potential to become outstanding leaders, and to inspire others to action and to excellence.
Natalia serves as a co-chair for U of T’s Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering: Graduate (ILead:Grad), a role that has allowed her to support and mentor others to develop their leadership skills.
Natalia is part of the AllerGen-funded BEAM (Better Exposure Avoidance Measures) research project that is developing inexpensive air-quality monitoring devices. She works under the supervision of AllerGen investigator Dr. Greg Evans.
Winnipeg spotlight firmly fixed on CHILD researchers
AllerGen researchers at the University of Manitoba have once again been featured in local news coverage about the CHILD Study. The March 27, 2014 episode of “Small Wonders” on CTV Winnipeg featured researchers, Dr. Allan Becker and Dr. Meghan Azad, Study participants, and highlighted the need for further research funding.
CHILD researchers Dr. Allan Becker and Dr. Meghan Azad
Continuation of the Study is “so important when you are trying to understand how disease and health develop and evolve over time,” said Dr. Becker. Sherri Pinkerton, who participates in the Study with her two daughters, commented that the CHILD Study “gives the researchers a lot of insight into what could potentially be causing asthma and allergies that are so prevalent.”
To view the Small Wonders episode, click here.
“Is it something in our DNA, the environment or both?”
AllerGen researchers at the University of Manitoba have been featured in local news coverage about the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.
AllerGen’s CHILD Study is following 3,500 Canadian children from pre-birth to age five, in order to examine how genetics and what a child is exposed to during pregnancy and in the first few years of life can influence the risk of developing allergies, asthma, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Talented AllerGen trainee to meet Nobel Laureates
AllerGen trainee and gut microbiome researcher Dr. Meghan Azad has been selected to attend a prestigious week-long meeting that unites more than 30 Nobel Prize winners with 600 of the world’s brightest young scientists.
The 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physiology or Medicine) will be held June 29 - July 4, 2014, in Lindau, Germany. The annual event—the only one of its kind in the world—provides a unique opportunity for the intercultural and intergenerational exchange of knowledge and ideas between Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physiology, medicine and physics, and talented young scientists from across the globe.
“I am so excited to be given the opportunity to 'rub shoulders' with these prestigious scientists. Can you imagine brainstorming with a Nobel Prize winner, let alone 30 of them, for an entire week? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Dr. Azad.
Dr. Azad’s research uses samples from AllerGen’s Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study to investigate the impact of antibiotics, breastfeeding and environmental factors on infant gut microbiota and the subsequent development of allergic disease. Dr. Azad is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta under the supervision of AllerGen researcher, Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj. She was named a Banting Post-doctoral Fellow in September 2013.
The 2014 Nobel Laureate Meeting meeting will focus on the topics of physiology or medicine, and allow Nobel Prize winners and young scientists to discuss topics such as global health, the challenges to medical care in developing countries and future research approaches to medicine.
Commercialization of biobanks a murky issue
Biobanks are important research platforms that involve the collection and storage of human health data and biological samples, including DNA, blood, urine and tissues. According to AllerGen Principal Investigator and health law expert, Professor Tim Caulfield, biobanks may operate in murky waters, facing ethical and security questions associated with public trust, consent and ownership of samples.
In a new paper published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Professor Caulfield and co-authors, including AllerGen Research Leaders Drs Allan Becker and Malcolm Sears, explore the challenges of commercializing biobanks for the purpose of advancing medical research and knowledge.
Read how Canadians feel about the commercialization of biobanks here.
Experts evaluate food allergy ‘apps’
How useful are smartphone apps designed for people with food allergies in mind?
In the lead-up to The Allergy Fix—a new The Nature of Things documentary about food allergies in Canada and beyond—CBC interviews a consultant at Anaphylaxis Canada and clinical expert Dr. Scott Sicherer about the benefits of mobile apps for food allergies.
“There’s a big difference if you’re deciding if something’s going to send you into [life-threatening] anaphylaxis, or if the calories are higher or lower. The margin of error is different,” says Dr. Sicherer, Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Click here to read the full article.
The Allergy Fix, which features AllerGen researchers Dr. Susan Waserman and Dr. Stuart Turvey, airs Thursday, February 27, 2014, at 7 p.m. EST on CBC.
Pushing toward personalized medicine
AllerGen Principal Investigator Professor Tim Caulfield will speak on the topic of The Policy Challenges and Health Limits of Personalized Medicine at The University of British Columbia on Thursday, February 20, 2014, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Professor Caulfield’s presentation, which is open to the public, will explore the recent “push” toward personalized medicine and its limits, including the data regarding clinical value and whether genomic risk information will help individuals to live healthier lives.
For more information on the event and Professor Caulfield, click here.
Athletes allergic to Sochi?
The Norwegian alpine skier, Aksel Lund Svindal, recently withdrew from his final event at the Sochi Olympics, citing allergies and the use of medications to combat itchy eyes and a runny nose.
Dr. Chris Carlsten, an AllerGen Principal Investigator who researches the health effects of air pollution, was contacted from Sochi, Russia, to comment on the possible role of the city’s concrete dust in causing allergic symptoms in Olympic athletes. Read Dr. Carlsten’s comments in the February 19 Toronto Star article.
Dr. Carlsten is the Chair in Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease and Associate Professor of Medicine at The University of British Columbia (UBC).
Former AllerGen trainee chosen for international research on anaphylaxis
Dr. Jennifer Protudjer, a past President of the AllerGen Students and New Professionals Network (ASNPN), has been named one of three post-doctoral fellows to investigate anaphylaxis and the risk factors associated with severe allergic reactions at the Centre for Allergy Research (CfA) at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Karolinska Institute is an AllerGen partner and one of the world’s leading medical universities. The new research initiative—funded through a donation from Karin and Sten Mörtstedt CBD Solutions AB—will study the factors that precipitate anaphylactic reactions with the goal of improving diagnosis and developing new treatments. Dr. Protudjer’s research will examine the prognosis of food allergy from childhood through adolescence. A kick-off ceremony for the project will be held on February 13, 2014.
Dr. Protudjer originally developed her relationships at the Karolinska Institute during a six-week trainee exchange made possible through AllerGen’s International Partnership Initiative (IPI) funding, which aims to produce globally-engaged scientists in the fields of allergy and asthma.
Traffic fumes affect asthma in children genetically susceptible to the disease
AllerGen researchers at The University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and University of Manitoba, in partnership with collaborators in Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands, have identified that children with a specific genetic profile may be at an increased risk of developing asthma after exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TrAP).
The Traffic pollution, Asthma, Genetics (TAG) Study is the first Canadian-European consortium to examine how traffic-related air pollution and genetic profiles contribute to the development of childhood asthma.
The study is led by AllerGen investigators, Dr. Michael Brauer, a professor in the School of Population and Public Health, and Dr. Chris Carlsten, Chair in Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease, at The University of British Columbia.
Study findings, published in January in Environmental Health Perspectives, suggested that children with one variant of the gluathione S-transferase P1, or GSTP1 gene, had double the expected risk of developing asthma associated with traffic-related air pollution. “This supports the plausibility of a causal relationship and brings us closer to understanding the mechanism of action of traffic pollution in vulnerable people,” said Dr. Brauer.
The TAG Study combined data from over 15,000 children enrolled in six (two Canadian and four European) birth cohorts. "Generous partnership with our European colleagues allowed us to gather enough children to show an effect that would likely be hidden within a smaller group; extrapolating to the global population, this has important public health implications," Dr. Carlsten commented.
AllerGen investigator joins Board of Directors of Clinical Trials Ontario
Dr. Anne Ellis, a Kingston-based allergy specialist and an AllerGen Principal Investigator, has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Clinical Trials Ontario for a three-year term.
Established in 2012, Clinical Trials Ontario is an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to attracting global clinical trials investments to the province. The organization aims to improve the speed and reduce costs of multi-centre clinical trials by streamlining the research ethics approval process, harmonizing administrative processes, and improving participant recruitment and retention through education about the benefits of clinical trials.
Dr. Ellis is Associate Professor and Chair, Division of Allergy & Immunology, Department of Medicine, Queen's University and Principal Investigator of AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative—Allergic Rhinitis.
AllerGen 9th Annual Trainee Symposium
April 30 - May 2, 2014
Open to all AllerGen trainees and ASNPN members.
For more information contact Michelle Harkness
AllerGen trainee gains international research experience
With funding provided by AllerGen’s International Trainee Research Visit Program, Dr. Jeremy Hirota recently spent eight weeks working with Professor Philip Hansbro at The University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases in New South Wales, Australia.
During his stay, Dr. Hirota performed in vitro and in vivo experiments to study how uric acid— an antioxidant naturally produced by the body—may contribute to airway health and disease. Ultimately, Dr. Hirota hopes to determine how the lung copes with environmental insults with the goal of informing public policy to improve air quality for Canadians. Dr. Hirota is supervised by AllerGen Investigator, Dr. Chris Carlsten at The University of British Columbia.
In 2011, AllerGen and the The University of Newcastle signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which supports training and skill acquisition opportunities for trainees and young professionals in both Canada and Australia.
The CHILD Study helps provide answers about family pets and childhood allergies
Owning a dog may protect against the development of allergies if exposure begins in the womb to the first year of life, according to an overview of relevant research presented in the Winter 2014 issue of Allergic Living magazine.
The article “Child’s Best Friend” highlights research conducted between 1999 and 2012 investigating the impact of pets