June 2, 2020

MHWFAC, Henry Ford Health launch food allergy research consortium

Food allergy scientists at two large Michigan institutions have teamed up to establish the Southeast Michigan Food Allergy Collaborative (SMFAC) to coordinate research and clinical trials related to food allergy.

Investigators at the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center (MHWFAC) and the Epidemiology and Allergy Divisions at Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) will leverage strengths from both institutions to investigate the development and mechanisms that lead to food allergy. 

"This powerful partnership exemplifies our determination to serve as a catalyst for food allergy research," said James R. Baker, Jr., MD, director of the MHWFAC.  "By providing a forum for distinguished scientists to share knowledge and data, we hope to accelerate discovery that will lead to new options for patients." 

The partnership arose from previous studies that brought together experts from both institutions to examine the development of allergies early in life, and the long-term consequences due to environmental and nutritional influences.
“This collaboration already has established the importance of environmental microbiome in homes of children that are protected from development of allergies and identified mechanisms that include the influence of metabolites regulated by the microbiome as well as those provided by mothers” said Nicholas Lukacs, PhD, scientific director at the MHWFAC. “Henry Ford’s outstanding clinical research team along with Michigan’s food allergy patient populations and mechanistic research expertise at MHWFAC will allow us to bridge existing research gaps and identify new paradigms and potential therapies in food allergy.
“Together, we will examine how our research findings are relevant to the outcome of patients undergoing therapy, either in clinical trials or under FDA approved products,” he said. “These studies will provide important insights into which patients would be likely to have good outcomes or should even be enrolled in specific therapies.”  
MHWFAC has access to the large food allergy patient population at Michigan Medicine, and the University of Michigan’s outstanding research laboratories.  Henry Ford Health System, meanwhile, has established numerous patient cohorts that allow researchers to examine the development of food allergy starting at birth, as well as the influence of mothers during gestation.
The consortium recently was funded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to examine the development of allergies in a new 3000-patient birth cohort, led by Christine Johnson, PhD and Ed Zoratti, MD at Henry Ford. They will be collaborating with MHWFAC scientists led by Nick Lukacs, along with Gary Huffnagle, PhD, and Catherine Ptaschinski, PhD. These latter studies will not only assess the development of food allergies early in life, but also examine the continued responses throughout the patients’ childhood. Examining both the developing and established disease processes will help scientists better understand how to treat and even prevent food allergy.
“We look forward to the new and exciting research that we will be able to report from this regional program,” said Dr. Lukacs.