David H. Koch donates $10 million to Mount Sinai's Jaffe Food Allergy Institute

April 10th, 2012
David H. Koch, Executive Vice President of Koch Industries, has committed $10 million to the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at The Mount Sinai Medical Center. The gift is one of the largest in the Institute's history and will create the David H. and Julia Koch Research Program in Food Allergy Therapeutics. The program will serve as a hub for drug discovery and vaccine development related to food allergy, and build upon the promising work already underway at the Institute. The donation will also be used to further the Institute's recruitment of leading researchers dedicated to the discovery of new food allergy therapeutics.

Nearly 15 million Americans have food allergies, including approximately 6 million children, according the The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. A 2010 study led by Scott Sicherer, MD, Chief of the Division on Allergy and Immunology in the Department of Pediatrics and a clinical researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute found the rates of childhood peanut allergies, one of the most common and most dangerous food allergies, more than tripled between 1997 and 2008.

Because the preventive shots used for allergies such as pollen or bee stings cause severe unwanted side effects when used for food allergies, scientists at the Institute are conducting cutting-edge research investigating using small fragments of the three main allergenic proteins present in peanuts to create a "safe shot." If successful in preventing peanut allergy, the theory could be applied to vaccines for all food allergies. Mr. Koch's donation will support these studies as well as efforts to identify new targets and biomarkers for food allergy.

"This generous gift will strengthen Mount Sinai's position as a global leader in food allergy therapeutics," said Hugh Sampson, MD, Director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute and an internationally recognized allergist and investigator of food allergy. "Right now, the only recourse for patients who have food allergies is to avoid those foods. This program has the potential to deliver the first therapies and cures for food allergies."

The research conducted by the program will be especially significant for children's health, according to Kenneth L. Davis, President and CEO of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. "Breakthrough therapeutics such as these will change the face of children's health," he said. "Mr. Koch's visionary philanthropy brings us one step closer to that goal."

Mr. Koch is a major advocate for medical research, and has long supported research into food allergies. "This is an exhilarating time for science and medicine in food allergy, and Dr. Sampson and his team are the best at what they do, but the most exciting discoveries are yet to come," said Mr. Koch. "My hope is that in the not-too-distant future, children who suffer from life-threatening food allergies will have their lives transformed from the therapies that originated here."

The Jaffe Food Allergy Institute was established in 1997 with the mission to expand and improve basic science and clinical research, comprehensive patient care, and educational efforts in the field of food allergy. Recent findings and ongoing studies include:

  • The group recently published a study showing that introducing food products containing baked milk into the diets of children who have milk allergy helps the majority of them outgrow their milk allergy more quickly;
  • In the first-ever study to assess the social impact of food allergies in children, researchers led by Dr. Scott Sicherer, found that approximately 35 percent of children over the age of five with food allergies, experience bullying, teasing, or harassment as a result of their allergies;
  • A team led by Dr. Sampson is currently conducting a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of oral immunotherapy combined with the anti-IgE medication omalizumab in the treatment of cow's milk allergy;
  • A team of investigators led by Julie Wang, MD, Assistant Professor of Allergy and Immunology and Xiu-Min Li, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, is currently conducting a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of Chinese herbs as a treatment for peanut, tree nuts, sesame, fish, or shellfish allergies;
  • A team led by Dr. Sampson is investigating other novel forms of immunotherapy including peptide-based vaccines and engineered recombinant protein-based vaccines.

By combining a world-class clinical research program with an equally strong laboratory-based one, the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute is uniquely able to move ideas and investigations between the laboratory bench and the patient's bedside in order to approach these disorders as efficiently and creatively as possible. The major goal is to devise more definitive, hopefully curative, therapies for food allergic disease.

Provided by The Mount Sinai Hospital

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