Sean Parker, tech entrepreneur, who founded Napster and was an early investor to Facebook, has made a $24 million donation to Stanford University for allergy research. The new center will be called the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research. He is an asthma and allergy sufferer, who was limited in childhood playing sports because of those problems. He is worried about passing his genes on to his two children. He also has a peanut allergy which has led him to multiple trips to the emergency room for accidental ingestion. His wife counts 14 such episodes related to this.
About 1/3 of Americans have allergies, and it is doubling every decade. About 25% of people with food allergies will experience a near fatal episode of anaphylaxis sometime in their lives. Currently there is no treatment for food allergies except avoidance. There is allergy immunotherapy for environmental allergies such as trees, grass, weeds, dust mites, dog, cats and mold (among the few). But earlier trials of immunotherapy have failed in the past for food. The new research center hopes to advance treatment of desensitizing for food allergies.
Many other companies has recently ventured into allergies in order to determine a cure for food allergies. Several research centers, notably Mt. Sinai in New York are successfully desensitizing to peanut allergies, but this is still in its infancy and not ready for mainstream treatment.
Allergy immunotherapy has made recent advances over the past year in the United States, with approval of the first oral immunotherapy treatment for Grass and Ragweed in 2014. Studies are currently underway for other allergens such as dust mite and cat, and companies are hoping to get FDA approval soon.
Sean Parker’s grant hopes to identify immune markers that relate to desensitization and hopefully come up with a cure for those afflicted by food allergies.