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Leading Food Allergy Research and Advocacy Groups Merge to Find Cure for Life-Threatening Childhood Disease

Food Allergy Project Joins with Food Allergy Initiative to Create Largest National Source for Research, Advocacy and Education Efforts

NEW YORK, Feb. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Food Allergy Initiative and The Food Allergy Project today announced a merger of their organizations, a powerful combination that will increase public awareness of the severity of life-threatening food allergies, empower advocates and family support groups, and encourage the nation's leaders to increase funding for this potentially deadly disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has said that "food allergy has emerged as an important public health problem," and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently noted that rates are rising significantly among children. Food allergies afflict more than 12 million Americans, including approximately three million children and teenagers under the age of 18.

For more than a decade, The Food Allergy Initiative and The Food Allergy Project have committed research dollars, led public awareness efforts and advocated on behalf of families affected by food allergies. By combining forces, the new organization, which will use The Food Allergy Initiative name, will represent the largest private source of funding for food allergy research and will serve as a voice for millions of families to call on the federal government and private sources to collaborate in search of a cure. The combined entity has already contributed more than $60 million to basic scientific research and educational efforts. Following the merger, David Bunning, co-founder of The Food Allergy Project, joined the board of directors of The Food Allergy Initiative.

"For a number of years, The Food Allergy Initiative and The Food Allergy Project have worked toward a common goal of finding a cure for life-threatening food allergies," said Todd Slotkin, Chairman and President of The Food Allergy Initiative. "After partnering on many important research and advocacy initiatives, our two organizations have now formally joined together with a renewed commitment to bring families affected by food allergies the treatments that we are all so eager to find."

David and Denise Bunning, parents of two severely food-allergic sons, founded The Food Allergy Project after privately funding research for a number of years and leading local family support groups in their Chicago-area hometown. Since 2006, The Food Allergy Project has championed increased federal funding for food allergy research, resulting in commitments from leading federal agencies for the disease. The Food Allergy Initiative has led the charge on food allergy research, providing significant funding to major medical centers in the U.S. and overseas, including the world-renowned Jaffe Institute for Food Allergy Research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York, NY). The Food Allergy Initiative also has driven public policy solutions, including the passage in 2004 of the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). With rates of food allergies rising dramatically and far outstripping the research community's current resources dedicated to the disease, these leading organizations will now join forces to call for action from the nation's leaders.

"This merger represents the joining together of like-minded parents, advocates and researchers who are committed to finding a cure for life-threatening food allergies," said David Bunning. "Our children deserve the right to reach their full potential, and Denise and I are thrilled to merge our organization with The Food Allergy Initiative to bring hope for a cure to millions of children."

Hugh A. Sampson, M.D., a prominent researcher and president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), noted that the two organizations have played a key role in advancing food allergy research over the past decade. "Food allergy research was very limited until concerned families founded these organizations," he said. "This merger couldn't have come at a more critical moment. In this challenging economy, competition for federal research grants will be more intense than ever. If we want to attract more investigators to the field, they need to know that they have a powerful voice in Washington -- and that substantial funds are available from a sound, trusted private source as well."

There are no medications to cure or control food allergies. A strict diet and avoidance of the allergenic food is the only way to avoid a reaction, yet the most common allergens -- peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy -- are staples of the food supply and virtually impossible to avoid completely. Accidental exposure to even a minuscule amount of the offending food can cause an allergic individual to react within seconds, often leading to life-threatening anaphylaxis that causes throat swelling, a dramatic drop in blood pressure, vomiting and even death within a matter of minutes. Although researchers estimate that food allergies cause tens of thousands of emergency room visits each year, they do not understand why rates are increasing so alarmingly, particularly among children. As the CDC report indicated, in a recent five-year period, the rates of peanut allergies among children literally doubled, and allergies to other foods are similarly increasing.

The Food Allergy Initiative ( was founded in 1998 by concerned parents and grandparents to support: basic and clinical research worldwide; better public policies to make the world safer for those afflicted; and educational programs to make the hospitality industry, schools, day care centers, and camps safer. Entering its 11th year, FAI has raised and invested more than $42 million toward its mission. FAI has formed research partnerships with the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and has funded studies at Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, King's College (London), McMaster University (Ontario), the University of Michigan, Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York, NY), UCLA, the University of Washington, and other major medical institutions worldwide.

The Food Allergy Project is a national coalition of parents, researchers, educators and experts who joined together to increase the federal resources dedicated to food allergy research and to fund scientific studies that will lead to a cure. For nearly a decade, The Food Allergy Project and its founders have supported vital research initiatives at leading scientific institutions such as Duke University, Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University, Harvard Medical School and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

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SOURCE Food Allergy Initiative
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