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Broad Institute to Lead Food Allergy Research Consortium

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A coalition of top research institutions are banding together to study food allergies. Led by the Broad Institute, the Food Allergy Science Initiative (FASI) will look to establish the underlying science behind what it says is a poorly understood issue.

"With the dramatic advances in genomic technologies, immunology, and microbiome research in the past decade, scientists are now in a unique position to explore the biological mechanisms behind food allergies," the Broad Institute said in a statement. The researchers plan to use single-cell genomic analysis and CRISPR screening, among other technologies.

The state of diagnosing and treating food allergies is unsophisticated as allergic reactions are the primary means of diagnosis and treatment is limited to epinephrine injections or avoidance, the Broad noted.

"With an ambitious interdisciplinary approach and a partnership between immunologists, clinicians, technologists, and computational scientists we can help speed research and enhance scientific understanding of food allergy in a manner that would translate in the future to improved diagnostics and therapies," Broad Core Member Aviv Regev added.

The consortium's projects will include studies on the allergen sensing mechanisms used by immune system cells in the gastrointestinal tract, how allergic response is triggered, and genetic and environmental factors contributing to food allergies.

FASI will also include contributions from the Yale School of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Broad members Regev, Vijay Kuchroo, Christopher Love, and Ramnik Xavier; MGH's Wayne Shreffler; and Yale's Ruslan Medzhitov will lead the project.

Private donors have committed approximately $10 million in seed funding to the initiative.