Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos Extend a $2.25 Million Challenge Grant to Fund Innovative Clinical Food Allergy Research at Stanford

Megan Alpers
Monday, August 18, 2014

Groundbreaking food allergy research at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has received a major boost through the creation of a challenge grant by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. Severe food allergies are a growing epidemic, with rates having doubled in the last decade. One out of every 13 children is affected, and over 30 percent are thought to have allergies to more than one food.

The donors have established a $2.25 million matching challenge grant to help change this reality. The goal is to raise a total of $4.5 million, which will help researchers to identify root causes and develop novel approaches, including immunotherapy. The university must close the challenge grant within a year’s time. Funding secured through the challenge will go toward the creation of an allergy research center at Stanford, led by Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, an expert in the field of immunology, food allergies, and allergy immunotherapy, and an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Under Nadeau’s leadership, a team at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has made several advances, detailed in a recent New York Times Magazine feature story. The team developed the first combination, multi-food-allergy therapy that has been shown to safely desensitize food-allergic patients to up to five different allergens at the same time. Clinical trial participants who were treated with combined immunotherapy successfully reached desensitization earlier than participants who did not use this combination regimen. Participants were gradually given small amounts of an allergen to build desensitization, along with the drug omalizumab, an anti-IgE drug that inhibits the protein that triggers allergic responses.

“Kari Nadeau and her colleagues are changing the paradigm for understanding and treating food allergies and offering so much hope to the growing number of children and families whose lives are impacted,” said Lloyd B. Minor, dean of Stanford University School of Medicine. “I am deeply grateful to Jeff and MacKenzie for their generosity and vision in supporting this innovative work.”

A dedicated allergy center on campus will enable Nadeau and her team to expand the number of clinical research studies and reach more patients through collaborations with other universities and hospitals across the country.

“Our food allergy studies that combine immunotherapy and omalizumab have shown promise for patients, with many reaching desensitization to their allergic foods in just six to nine months,” said Nadeau. “We hope that our continued clinical research studies, as well as collaboration with other hospitals, physicians, and researchers across the country, will allow us to gather more scientific data and results, potentially leading to an effective and insurable therapy for patients with food allergies throughout the world. This research depends on private donors who see the potential to impact millions of people. We are deeply grateful to Jeff and MacKenzie for making our research possible.”

“Dr. Nadeau and her team are transforming food allergy research,” said Jeff Bezos. “MacKenzie and I are optimistic that they will continue to achieve breakthroughs and improve the lives of allergy patients.”