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Annual Report 2013-2014

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Circle of Care
- Taking Control of Asthma

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Circle of Care - Taking Control of Asthma.

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Better estimates of food allergy prevalence

For years, experts have relied upon telephone surveys to estimate the number of Canadians with food allergies. But how do you accurately measure the prevalence of food allergies when people do not answer the phone or refuse to be surveyed?

 Lianne Soller


An innovative paper by AllerGen researchers is the first to demonstrate that adjustment for nonresponse can lead to important changes in estimating food allergy prevalence. “Adjusting for nonresponse bias corrects overestimates of food allergy prevalence” was published online in January 2015, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

The paper’s findings were based upon data from a 2010‒2011 AllerGen-funded study, “Surveying Prevalence of Food Allergy in All Canadian Environments”, which surveyed 5,734 Canadian households about food allergies. The research team then adjusted for nonresponse bias by gathering information from households who refused or could not be reached to complete the study.

“This research is the first to consider the effect of non-response bias in the estimation of food allergy prevalence, and we have clearly demonstrated that doing so is crucial in developing accurate estimates,” says Lianne Soller, the paper’s first author and an AllerGen trainee.

The “science” behind celebrity fads

In his new book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? When Celebrity Culture & Science Clash (Viking, Jan. 13, 2015), health science expert Professor Timothy Caulfield examines how our obsession with celebrity culture can cloud our thinking about health, diet, beauty, and even food allergies.

Celebrity-endorsed fads drive multi-million dollar businesses—but are they effective, safe and based in good science? Caulfield talks with experts, celebrities, and even tries out the fads himself, to get at the real science behind the health and lifestyle advice of Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities.

Caulfield is a University of Alberta law professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, and the author of The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness & Happiness (2011). He is also an AllerGen investigator who studies the legal and ethical dimensions of allergy and asthma research.

“For this book, I went to Hollywood to chat with Gwyneth's physician advisor Dr. Alejendro Junger,” Caulfield says. “It was clear that Dr. Junger’s cleanse—which was no fun!—was all about avoiding foods he believed caused an allergic reaction. No milk, and of course, no wheat of any kind. Celebrity culture has emerged as a big source of the rhetoric around allergies, especially in the context of vaccines and food.”

Professor Caulfield will speak about his new book on Monday, January 12, 2015, from 5:00‒6:00 p.m. in Toronto, ON. Click here for details.

Teens want practical, “hands-on” food allergy education

Teenagers with food allergies would like hands-on practice using epinephrine auto-injectors and to role play scenarios about safe ways to eat out, travel and date, according to new Canadian research about teens learning preferences.


Allergic teens participated in focus groups at the Children’s Allergy and Asthma Education Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to help design an educational program custom-fit for teenagers. AllerGen trainee Claire Unruh, Centre staff Nancy Ross and Cathy Gillespie, and AllerGen investigator Dr. Allan Becker published the highlights in Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology.

A second abstract by the research team, “Lessons learned from the development of a school age food allergy education program,” addressed the need for activity-based and peer-to-peer interactions for effective allergy education with school-age children and their parents.

Diesel exhaust affects genes of asthmatics

AllerGen researchers at The University of British Columbia (UBC) have published a new study in Particle and Fibre Toxicology, adding to their growing body of research about the relationship between exposure to diesel exhaust and asthma.

Two hours of inhaling diesel exhaust fumes triggered effects at the genetic level among patients with asthma, the study found. The diesel exhaust affected the chemical coating of certain genes involved in allergic disease—a process called methylation—which can cause a gene’s function to be altered without affecting the underlying DNA.

The research was conducted by AllerGen investigators Dr. Christopher Carlsten (Associate Professor of Medicine, UBC) and Dr. Michael Kobor (Associate Professor of Medical Genetics, UBC, Canada Research Chair in Social Epigenetics), as well as AllerGen trainees Drs Ruiwei Jiang, the paper’s first author, Meaghan Jones and Francesco Sava.

Research in the relatively new field of epigenetics has shown that while our inherited genes map out the blueprint of how we develop, genes can be modified—switched on or off, dialled up or down—by factors in the environment. Exposure to diesel exhaust, the study has shown, is one of those factors.

"We believe that this is important because long-term epigenetic changes are inevitably the accumulated product of many short-term phenomena,” says Dr. Carlsten. “By understanding these acute dynamics, we hope to gain a window into the longer-term consequences and potential preventive measures therein."

SyMBIOTA team wins publication award for paper's relevance to clinical practice

The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has selected a 2013 paper by AllerGen researchers to receive the Bruce Squires Award. The award is “awarded annually to the author(s) of the research paper published in the journal (during the previous year) that is most relevant to the practice of medicine and most likely to impact it in a positive way.”

Gut microbiota of healthy Canadian infants: profiles by mode of delivery and infant diet at 4 months” was published in CMAJ in March 2013. The study highlighted the potential impact of early childhood exposures, such as the method of delivery in childbirth and the method of infant feeding, on lifelong health.

The research is part of a $2.5 million research project titled Synergy in Microbiota Research (SyMBIOTA). SyMBIOTA uses data from AllerGen’s CHILD Study to look at the makeup of the infant microbiome and how variations in this internal ecosystem affect health and disease later in life.

New asthma/allergy publications by AllerGen researchers


Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) secretion from human nasal epithelium is a function of TSLP genotype (Hui, Akhabir, Sandford, Neighbour, Denburg et al.)


Short-term diesel exhaust inhalation in a controlled human crossover study is associated with changes in DNA methylation of circulating mononuclear cells in asthmatics (Jiang, Jones, Sava, Kobor, Carlsten)


The face of chiropractic: evidence-based? (Caulfield et al.)


Respiratory medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario: 1968 to 2013(Jones, O’Byrne)

The burden of asthma among the South Asian and Chinese population residing in Ontario (Stanojevic, Shah, Anand, Sears, Su, Subbarao)

The face of chiropractic: evidence-based?

A recent publication by AllerGen investigator Timothy Caulfield (University of Alberta law professor, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy) and his colleagues, revealed the prominent trends and discourses used by the chiropractic profession in their online communication with the public.

The study involved reviewing the website content of major Canadian chiropractic associations and colleges, and commercial clinics. The researchers examined the range of health conditions described as treatable by chiropractic care and identified the primary messages the profession conveys to the public.

The paper, published in Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, found that 37.5% of the clinics surveyed claimed that chiropractic care was able to treat allergies. Clinics also advertised the ability to treat and address other health concerns typically beyond the scope of traditional chiropractic practice, such as ADHD/attention deficit disorder (ADD) (37.5%), bedwetting (30%) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) (32.5%).

Future research should further explore the appropriateness of the claims from an evidence-based perspective, according to the paper’s authors.

Uncovering the mystery of eosinophils in food allergy

AllerGen researchers at McMaster University have discovered that eosinophils (specialized white blood cells) in the intestine play a different role in the allergic response that causes food allergy and anaphylaxis than was previously thought.

Eosinophils are typically considered to be effector cells—activated cells that are recruited to the body’s tissues once an immune response has been triggered. However, the new research has shown that intestinal eosinophils can actually initiate an allergic response leading to the development of food allergy and anaphylaxis.

The study, Indigenous enteric eosinophils control DCs to initiate a primary Th2 immune response in vivo, was selected as the Society of Mucosal Immunology Featured Paper for December 2014. AllerGen investigators Drs Susan Waserman and Manel Jordana, and AllerGen trainee Dr. Derek Chu were involved with the research.

"Eosinophils have long been known to inhabit the intestine, but a precise role for them there has remained a biological and medical mystery,” says Dr. Chu, first author on the paper. “In this study, we discovered an unexpected immune network connecting resident intestinal eosinophils with dendritic cells (DCs) that was crucial for the development of peanut food allergy and anaphylaxis.”

The finding will help researchers to better understand the origins of allergy and allergic sensitization and to explore manipulating the eosinophil-DC axis as a novel therapeutic approach for immune mediated diseases such as food allergy.

Food allergy pioneer to head new research centre

Dr. Kari Nadeau, one of North America’s foremost experts in adult and pediatric allergy, will lead the new Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research to be established at Stanford University in California.

A US $24 million grant from technology billionaire Sean Parker, for whom the new institute is named, as well as donations from Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and other philanthropic leaders, will support the development of the new interdisciplinary and interdependent allergy research center. Parker, co-founder of the Napster file-sharing service and Facebook’s founding president, suffers from life-threatening food allergies and asthma.

Dr. Nadeau has pioneered research that de-sensitizes the immune system by gradually exposing patients to incremental doses of a food allergen over time—a treatment called oral immunotherapy. She leads translational research and clinical studies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and the Stanford University School of Medicine, and currently directs the Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR) program.

In June 2014, AllerGen NCE and Dr. Nadeau announced the launch of a joint award that will allow a young Canadian scientist (MD or PhD) with an interest in developing new and safe therapies for food allergies to work with Dr. Nadeau at Stanford University. Contact AllerGen NCE for more information.

Allergic Living highlights Canadian anaphylaxis registry


Allergic Living’s Winter 2015 issue features AllerGen’s Cross-Canada Anaphylaxis Registry (C-CARE)—the first-ever prospective study on anaphylaxis.

Launched in 2011, C-CARE identifies anaphylaxis cases through reports from ambulance paramedics, emergency departments and allergists, and collects data on the cause, triggers and management of anaphylaxis in each case.

C-CARE is led by AllerGen investigator Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, a pediatric allergist and immunologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. The unique ​registry will provide the first reliable estimate of anaphylaxis rates in Canada and open the door to new ways of preventing and treating the condition.

Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) a significant investment in university research

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced the creation of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF)—a $1.5 billion investment in university research over 10 years starting in the 2015‒2016 academic year.

The Fund will be available to post-secondary institutions on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis and will enable Canada to excel globally in research areas that create long-term economic advantages for Canada. Grants will be awarded on the basis of scientific merit, strategic relevance to Canada and quality of the implementation plan.

The Fund’s first two competitions are being held in 2015 and 2016. The third competition is expected to be launched in 2021‒2022.

$25,000 Research Grant supports allergy and immunology research

The Canadian Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Foundation (CAAIF) has announced $25,000 in funding for allergy and immunology research.

The 2015 CAAIF Research Grant Competition will offer up to $25,000 of total funding to support one (1) grant or up to two (2) individual grants of $12,500 each. Projects must be of relevance to the practice of allergy and immunology in Canada

The application deadline for the competition is January 30, 2015.

CAAIF is a non-profit organization established to improve the educational and research resources of the Canadian allergy and immunology community.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos supports food allergy research

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and his wife have established a $2.24 million grant to support Dr. Kari Nadeau’s groundbreaking research at Stanford University to treat children with severe food allergies.

 Dr. Kari Nadeau


The grant, which aims to raise matching funds through private donations, will allow Dr. Nadeau to expand her research to other centres in the U.S. and for Stanford University to establish an independent allergy research centre on its campus.

Dr. Nadeau studies the causes of food allergies, oral immunotherapy for multiple food allergies, and eosinophilic esophagitis. Oral immunotherapy is a method of de-sensitizing the immune system by gradually exposing patients to incremental doses of a food allergen over time until tolerance is achieved.

In June 2014, AllerGen NCE and Dr. Nadeau announced the launch of a new collaboration that will advance food allergy research in North America. The Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR)/AllerGen Research Fellowship Award provides a salary/stipend of up to $50,000 US for one year for a young Canadian investigator (PhD or MD) with an interest in the prevention and treatment of severe food allergies to work with Dr. Nadeau at Stanford University. Call for Applications | Application Form

“AllerGen is delighted that this award will allow a young Canadian scientist with an interest in developing new and safe therapies for food allergies to work with Dr. Nadeau,” says Dr. Judah Denburg, Scientific Director and CEO of AllerGen. “Food allergy is the next, rising wave of the allergy epidemic. Research in this area is a priority for both organizations, given the rising prevalence and accompanying risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis, including the many challenges which food allergic patients face in everyday settings such as schools, public venues and restaurants.”

AllerGen researchers identify key cells and molecules that cause food allergy

AllerGen researchers at McMaster University have published a new paper that identifies key cells and molecules that cause food allergy. Drs Manel Jordana, Susan Waserman and Derek Chu, an AllerGen trainee and first author on the paper, have shown that a protein called Interleukin-4 (IL-4) stimulates its own production from activated T cells, and not from other innate sources. This self-amplifying loop of IL-4 production leads to the generation of allergic-type T cells, antibody production, inflammation and anaphylaxis.

The article was published in Mucosal Immunology in November 2014.

A better understanding of how IL-4 is produced and the role it plays in allergic sensitization could lead to new treatment options for individuals with food allergies.

Rx&D bestows health research and innovation awards

Dr. Brett Finlay, a professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Microbiology and Immunology at The University of British Columbia (UBC), has been awarded the 2014 Prix Galien Canada Research Award.

The Prix Galien recognizes outstanding contributions in the field of Canadian pharmaceutical research and innovation. Dr. Finlay was recognized for his contributions to microbiology, pharmacology, vaccine development, human and animal disease pathogenesis, and for transforming our understanding of bacterial interaction with the host cell.

The award was announced at the Rx&D Health Research Foundation awards ceremony in Toronto, ON, on November 19, 2014.

In August 2014, Dr. Finlay and Dr. Kelly McNagny, an AllerGen investigator and a professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at UBC, published findings that antibiotic use in early life alters gut bacteria and enhances future susceptibility to inflammatory lung disease.

Review of latest food allergy research in Journal of Asthma and Allergy

AllerGen researchers have published a review of new and emerging options for the diagnosis and management of food allergies.

The article, "Diagnosis and management of food allergies: new and emerging options: a systematic review," reviewed 100 articles published between 2009 and 2014. Diagnostic tests such as skin prick tests, serum IgE and component testing, as well as management techniques including primary prevention, complementary medicine, allergen avoidance and immunotherapy were evaluated.

“This review demonstrates that a collaborative approach, including a suggestive history and the use of confirmatory tests, is essential for the diagnosis of food allergy,” says AllerGen investigator Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, a pediatric allergist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “In addition, recent studies suggest that secondary and primary prevention of food- induced allergic reactions are possible.” Dr. Ben-Shoshan and AllerGen trainees Dr. Andrew O’Keefe, Jennifer Mill, Christopher Mill, Alizee Dery and Dr. Sarah De Schryver are co-authors on the paper.

Is going gluten-free good for your health?

In an October 2014 CBC Marketplace episode called “The Truth Behind the Trend,” CBC host Tom Harrington asked AllerGen investigator Professor Timothy Caulfield about the recent popularity in gluten-free diets.

Caulfield, a University of Alberta law professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, cautions there is a “downside” to gluten-free products, which are often more expensive and contain more calories, sodium and sugar than regular breads, pastas and crackers.

With respect to potential health benefits, Caulfield states that the gluten-free placebo effect “is real and it’s powerful. However, it is very difficult to make direct causal relationships between going gluten-free and feeling better or having more energy. There is no evidence to support that conclusion.”

AllerGen epigenetics researcher awarded a Canada Research Chair

AllerGen researcher Dr. Michael Kobor​ has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Social Epigenetics.

 Dr. Michael Kobor


Dr. Kobor is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at The University of British Columbia (UBC) and an expert in epigenetics—the relationship between genes and the environment.

His research team studies the mechanisms by which environmental exposures and life experiences can “get under the skin” to regulate the activity of genes, and contribute to health and disease throughout the life course of an individual. The research focuses on the epigenetic underpinnings of respiratory diseases, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and mental health trajectories.

Dr. Kobor also leads an AllerGen-funded project called Rapid Environmental Effects on Genes: the Lens of Epigenetics (REEGLE) that examines how environmental exposures in early life can affect the on-off setting of genes and influence the development of allergic diseases and asthma.

REEGLE aims to determine if exposure to common environmental allergens such as diesel exhaust, particulate matter and pollen affects the genes through DNA methylation patterns and to test for an association between such exposures and risk of allergic disease.

In DNA methylation, a specific chemical modification called a methyl group is added to the DNA backbone. If methylation occurs in a particular region of a gene, the gene function may be altered without affecting the underlying DNA.

“Any gene can have its activity regulated, in part by DNA methylation,” says Dr. Kobor. “DNA methylation acts like a dimmer control on a light switch that allows the light to be turned on and off, or dialled up and down.”

Dr. Kobor is one of 137 new and renewed Research Chairs across the country receiving $118 million of new funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Global News asks: Why are food allergies on the rise?

In a recent Global News interview, AllerGen researchers Dr. Paul Keith and Dr. Susan Waserman addressed the rise of food allergies in Canada and highlighted the potential causes.

Dr. Keith, an allergist and president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, identified several potential factors contributing to the development of food allergies, including a clean water supply—clean water reduces the number of parasitic infections that could be protective—and pregnancy-related factors such as cesarean section and antibiotic use that can affect the helpful bacteria living in our gut.

Food preparation techniques, environmental pollutants, insufficient Vitamin D, and a delay in the introduction of potentially allergenic foods to children are also possibly at play, according to Dr. Waserman, an allergist and immunologist at McMaster University.

AllerGen trainee interviews Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall in Nature

Dr. Meghan Azad recently interviewed the scientist who risked his health to prove his theory about the link between stomach ulcers and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.

Read the interview here.

Doctors can help asthma patients reduce their exposure to air pollution

Physicians can help their patients with asthma by recommending ways to reduce their individual exposure to air pollution, according to a new publication by AllerGen researchers, Drs Michelle North, Anne Ellis and Chris Carlsten, and co-author Dr. Neil Alexis.

 Dr. Michelle North


The paper was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). It presented the case of a 38-year-old woman who rode her bicycle to work each day and began experiencing wheezing at the end of her 30-minute commute. The woman’s allergist determined that a recent change in her bicycle route brought the patient within 300 metres of major roadways for 70% of her commute. The physician mapped out an alternative cycling route, reducing the patient’s exposure to air pollution and resulting in an improvement in asthma symptoms.

"This article was targeted towards physicians with the message that it is time for better integration of the existing public health knowledge of the effects of air pollution into practice, and specifically into asthma action plans,” says AllerGen trainee Dr. Michelle North, a post-doctoral fellow at Queen’s University and lead author on the paper. “The case we presented showed that counselling patients on ways to reduce their air pollution exposure can have a positive effect on individual asthma patients."

Greater peanut avoidance found in siblings of children with peanut allergy

A new study involving several AllerGen researchers has found that more than 10% of siblings of children with peanut allergies have never been introduced to peanuts, and siblings born after the diagnosis of a peanut allergic child are more likely to have never been exposed.

The paper, “Peanut avoidance and peanut allergy diagnosis in siblings of peanut allergic children,” used data from 748 families registered with the Canadian Peanut Allergy Registry. It also found that almost 9% of siblings were reported as peanut allergic, though in nearly 50% of cases, the diagnosis was made without having a history of an allergic reaction or undergoing confirmatory testing.

The study, published online in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, is featured in Wiley's News Round-Up, a biweekly mailing that promotes a selection of the most newsworthy research published across Wiley's journals.

The study involved the work of AllerGen researchers Drs Ann Clarke (University of Calgary), Edmond Chan (The University of British Columbia), Yuka Asai and Moshe Ben-Shoshan (McGill University); allergy specialists from McGill University and Humber River Regional Hospital; and AllerGen partners Anaphylaxis Canada and Allergy/Asthma Information Association.

"This is the largest group of siblings assessed in the medical literature so far,” says Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, a pediatric allergist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “Our study reveals that a substantial number of siblings born after a child in the family is diagnosed with a peanut allergy are not introduced to peanut by the ages of 3 and 5 years, and may even be presumed to have peanut allergy without a history of an allergic reaction or clinical testing. These findings are especially concerning given that recent studies suggest that delayed exposure may be associated with increased risk of peanut allergy."

University of Manitoba allergist featured in online video

Dr. Allan Becker, Professor of Allergy & Clinical Immunology at the University of Manitoba and AllerGen investigator, discusses the signs and symptoms of anaphylactic reactions, and what to do in the case of an anaphylactic reaction in a new online video.

Call for Applications for AllerGen-Stanford Fellowship in food allergy extended


The Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR)/AllerGen Research Fellowship Award will co-fund a $50,000 award for a Canadian investigator (PhD or MD) with an interest in the prevention and treatment of severe food allergies to pursue academic research training with Dr. Kari Nadeau at Stanford University.

Dr. Nadeau leads translational research and clinical studies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and directs the Nadeau Laboratory at Stanford.

The Call for Applications for this award will remain open until a suitable candidate has been found.

Call for Applications | Application Form

SquareOff features AllerGen investigator to speak on banning foods in schools

Dr. Paul Keith, an AllerGen investigator and president of the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology), recently discussed anaphylaxis and the role of banning foods in schools with SquareOff, a Hamilton-based daily news show.

“What you have to do is teach the child not to eat anything that may be contaminated with the food that they’re anaphylactic to,” says Dr. Keith, an associate professor at McMaster University. “The school board must look at each situation individually and do what is right for that child.”

Listen to the October 3 interview.

AllerGen awards $250,000 for advanced allergy research

AllerGen is pleased to announce that Dr. Marylin Desjardins (McGill University and The Montreal Children's Hospital) has been awarded the prestigious AllerGen Emerging Clinician-Scientist Research Fellowship, valued at $250,000.

This is the third Fellowship awarded by AllerGen, with the aim of addressing the shortage of allergy and clinical immunology expertise in Canada.

“AllerGen is pleased to support Dr. Desjardins’s research training and her goal of becoming an independent clinician-scientist in the field of allergy and immunology,” says AllerGen’s Scientific Director and CEO, Dr. Judah Denburg. “I am confident that Dr. Desjardins’s research will benefit Canadians living with allergies, asthma and immune deficiencies.”

Read the complete Press Release. English | French

AllerGen launches first globally-accessible allergy and asthma molecular network database

AllerGen’s Allergy and Asthma Portal (AAP)—a unique, web-accessible database that houses over 900 biomolecular interactions relevant to allergy and asthma—is now open to the public.

The AAP is the first resource of its kind and is available for use by allergy and asthma researchers worldwide. It represents the most comprehensive database of the genes, proteins, biomolecular interactions and pathways associated with immunity and allergic diseases, and will aid in the development of new therapies for allergies and asthma.

Read the press release

Microbiome researcher consults on “Microbirth” documentary


AllerGen investigator Anita Kozyrskyj is a contributor to “Microbirth”—a new documentary that examines how modern birth practices may be interfering with the “seeding” of a baby's microbiome.

The documentary interviews prominent scientists from the UK and North America about the importance of the transfer of good bacteria from mother to baby at birth, and the link between the way babies are born and health in later life, particularly the increased risk of children developing asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Dr. Kozyrskyj is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta and Co-Principal Investigator of a $2.5 million research project titled Synergy in Microbiota Research (SyMBIOTA). SyMBIOTA uses data from AllerGen’s CHILD Study to look at the makeup of the infant microbiome and how variations in this internal ecosystem affect health and disease later in life.

“Microbirth” premieres Saturday, September 20, 2014 in public screenings around the world.

New online course helps educators to keep allergic kids safe at school

Anaphylaxis Canada has launched a new online course to help teachers, administrators and educational staff to keep allergic students safe at school.


Anaphylaxis in Schools: What Educators Need to Know is a free, bilingual resource available to schools across the country. The course incorporates graphics, audio narration, practice scenarios, and step-by-step visual guides to help educators prevent and manage emergency situations at school.

This course is the first in a series of three anaphylaxis training programs developed in collaboration with Leap Learning Technologies Inc. and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI), with support from AllerGen NCE and McMaster University. Additional courses targeted to members of the community, including parents, caregivers, childcare centres and the general public will be released in 2015. The prevalence and incidence of allergy and anaphylaxis are on the rise in Canada. In 2012, a nationwide study found that about 2.5 million Canadians, or one in every 13 people, self-report a significant food allergy. Many people with food allergies are not properly diagnosed, and a food allergy that could cause anaphylaxis—a sudden, life-threatening reaction—can develop at any time in life.

Fewer food allergies among new immigrants and Canadians with low education

AllerGen researchers have found that Canadians with lower education and new Canadians (individuals who immigrated to Canada within the last 10 years) have fewer food allergies than the general population.

The researchers collected data from 5,734 households, representing over 15,000 Canadians from low income, immigrant and Aboriginal populations.

The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, helps researchers to better understand the lived experiences of food allergies in vulnerable populations.

Read the press release here

AllerGen investigator, partner organization help launch epinephrine auto-injector pilot project in Hamilton

A pilot project, led by the City of Hamilton and involving McMaster University and AllerGen partner Anaphylaxis Canada, is being launched today (September 8, 2014) in Hamilton. The project will analyze the effects of stocking epinephrine auto-injectors at Jackson Square shopping mall, and of training mall security guards to recognize an anaphylactic reaction and to administer the auto-injectors. The analysis will be conducted by a research team headed by AllerGen investigator Dr. Susan Waserman.

For more information, read the press release here.

Early-life shifts in gut microbes can increase susceptibility to inflammatory lung disease

Allergy researchers at The University of British Columbia (UBC) have found that antibiotic use in early life alters gut bacteria and enhances future susceptibility to inflammatory lung disease.

Read more

Canadian newborns are routinely exposed to antibiotics

In a new study published August 13, 2014, by The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, AllerGen trainee Ryan Persaud and a team of AllerGen researchers found that Canadian newborns are routinely exposed to antibiotics immediately before or after birth.

Read more

New study links antibiotic use to overweight in children

A new study by AllerGen researchers has shown that children treated with antibiotics in the first year of life are more than twice as likely to be overweight later in childhood compared to children who were unexposed.

The study, published online in the International Journal of Obesity, linked provincial health records of antibiotic use with data from 616 children involved in a longitudinal birth cohort study. It found that 32.4% of children who received antibiotics in the first year of life were overweight by age 12 compared to 18.2% of children who did not receive antibiotics.

The study involved the work of AllerGen researchers Drs Anita Kozyrskyj, Meghan Azad and Sarah Bridgman (University of Alberta), and Dr. Allan Becker (University of Manitoba), using data from the Study of Asthma, Genes and the Environment (SAGE) birth cohort.

Read more

AllerGen trainee ​reports back from meeting with Nobel Laureates

Read Dr. Meghan Azad's informal report on her participation in the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, available here.

Dr. Azad thanks the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for nominating her for inclusion in the event and for sponsoring her participation.

AllerGen researcher funded to lead worldwide study of air pollution and disease

Dr. Michael Brauer, an AllerGen investigator and a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at The University of British Columbia (UBC), is leading a new study that will provide an unparalleled worldwide analysis of the relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

“PURE AIR: A Global Assessment of Air Pollution and Respiratory and Cardiovascular Disease within the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological Study” has received a four-year, $753,000 operating grant from the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health.

The award will support Dr. Brauer and a team of seven researchers, including AllerGen research leader Dr. Paul O’Byrne, to conduct the first worldwide health study on the impacts of both outdoor and household air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The study will use an existing international cohort: the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological Study (PURE), led by Dr. Salim Yusuf of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University. PURE has recruited 155,000 individuals residing in 628 communities in 17 countries and 5 continents, with follow-up completed for four years and continuing for a further six.

PURE AIR will use novel satellite-based approaches to estimate outdoor air pollution levels, as well as targeted air pollution monitoring for all communities. Household air pollution will be estimated using detailed information already collected on the heating and cooking methods, fuel types and ventilation practices used in the PURE study participants' homes.

The results will help to determine the relationship between outdoor and household air pollution exposures and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as key relevant risk factors, such as blood pressure and lung function.

CHILD research team awarded five-year CIHR grant

Dr. Malcolm Sears, an AllerGen research leader and a professor of medicine at McMaster University, together with a team of CHILD researchers from across Canada, has received a five-year operating grant, valued at over $1 million, from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health. The CHILD Study application was ranked first among 65 proposals reviewed by the respiratory committee in the March 2014 competition.

The project, titled “Early Life Determinants of Asthma,” will use data from over 3,300 infants in the CHILD birth cohort study to explore how selected environmental factors affect allergies and asthma in children with different Genetic Risk Scores (GRS).

A GRS for asthma has recently been developed: the higher an individual's score, the more likely is life-long asthma; however, it is not known how environmental exposures influence this genetic risk.

AllerGen investigators Drs Sonia Anand, Jeffrey Brook and PJ Subbarao are also Principal Investigators for the project.

AllerGen and Canadian Respiratory Research Network (CRRN) partner to invest in grants for early career investigators

AllerGen will partner in the Emerging Research Leaders Initiative (ERLI)—an establishment grant program for researchers at the transition stage from post-doctoral fellow to early career professional in the areas of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and/or respiratory health research. This multi-partnered initiative is led by the Canadian Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and includes organizational partners from non-profit, government, industry, and emerging / existing Networks of Centres of Excellence.

The grant, valued at $150,000 ($50,000 per year for three years), is intended to assist new investigators in establishing independent health research programs and achieving the research productivity necessary to obtain major funding from national and other external granting agencies. A successful CRRN applicant whose research aligns with AllerGen’s mission and research scope is eligible for additional funding of $12,000/year for the length of the award.

CLICK HERE for more information on the Emerging Research Leaders Initiative.

Application submission deadline - September 15, 2014

AllerGen investigator chosen for 2014 “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”

An AllerGen investigator is among 90 Canadians named in Thomson Reuters' new compilation of "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014."

  Dr. Fiona Brinkman


Dr. Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University, was ranked as a top influencer in the category of "computer science" for her work in the area of bioinformatics.

Thomson Reuters identified the most influential scientists by analyzing citation data over the last decade. Roughly 3,200 researchers worldwide earned the distinction by ranking among the top 1% "most cited" in 21 broad fields of the sciences and social sciences.

Dr. Brinkman is an expert in the emerging field of bioinformatics—the use of computers to gather, store, analyze and integrate biological and genetic information, which can then be used to study how diseases develop.

Dr. Brinkman heads an AllerGen project to develop an Allergy and Asthma Portal—a web-accessible resource that combines data from the scientific literature with AllerGen research to aid more integrated, advanced studies of molecular networks involved in allergic diseases.

She has also developed Innate DB—an integrated database of the genes, proteins, molecular interactions and pathways involved in allergic responses. This resource provides a platform for sophisticated investigations of asthma and allergy responses and can be combined with bioinformatics and visualization tools for more holistic, systems-level analyses that were not previously possible.

Currently, Dr. Brinkman is conducting a Network-wide assessment of AllerGen data to identify data integration opportunities, leading to new insights in allergic disease.

Network members contribute to new volume on the study of mast cells


AllerGen investigator Dr. Kelly McNagny (The University of British Columbia) is co-editor of a new edition of "Mast Cells: Methods and Protocols," a volume in the Methods in Molecular Biology series published by Humana Press. The text is intended for the use of professionals and practitioners, and provides a sampler of methods and techniques in the further study of mast cell biology.

Among the contributors to the volume are 12 AllerGen-associated co-authors: seven investigators, one partner and four Highly Qualified Personnel.

This second edition expands upon the first with current, detailed reviews covering mast cell neophytes and cognoscenti alike, and features cutting-edge, readily reproducible protocols.

CIC investigators test new drug for allergic asthma

  Dr. Gail Gauvreau


Researchers in AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC) have shown that a new drug (quilizumab) successfully blocks the production of an immune system protein, reducing symptoms of allergic asthma.

The study​, led by Dr. Gail Gauvreau (McMaster University), was conducted by CIC investigators at six Canadian universities and one international site, and published in the July 2, 2014, issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Quilizumab, manufactured by Genentech, is a new monoclonal antibody that targets a receptor on immature blood cells to block the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a key protein involved in the allergic response. While other drugs bind to circulating IgE, quilizumab acts by depleting the cells responsible for IgE production even before it occurs, according to Dr. Gauvreau.

"The reduction of IgE in the blood was sustained for at least six months after the last dose of quilizumab, suggesting a long-lasting effect on IgE production," says Dr. Gauvreau. "These findings may have implications for patients with severe asthma or other diseases which are caused by high levels of circulating IgE."

A follow-up clinical trial involving a larger group of subjects with more severe asthma is underway.

Read the press release

Fresh “face” ready to meet Nobel Laureates

AllerGen trainee and gut microbiome researcher Dr. Meghan Azad has been featured in the “Faces” series leading up to The 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physiology or Medicine), be held June 29-July 4, 2014, in Lindau, Germany.

The “Faces” blog series profiles just a few of the remarkable young scientists who will attend the prestigious meeting that unites more than 30 Nobel Prize winners with 600 of the world’s brightest young scientists.

“I would like to sincerely thank the CIHR for supporting my research and nominating me to attend the Lindau Nobel Meeting. I would also like to acknowledge my mentor, Dr. Anita Kozyrskj, and my colleagues at the CHILD study, the SyMBIOTA research team, and AllerGen Network Centre of Excellence, for their guidance, support and collaboration,” says Dr. Azad.

CHILD Study news to reach 700,000 through Toronto Star

A new digital media campaign on asthma and allergies featuring an online article about AllerGen’s CHILD Study was released on June 12, 2014. The CHILD Study article provides an introduction to the study, its preliminary findings, and the promise the study holds for future prevention and treatment of asthma and other chronic diseases. Drs Malcolm Sears, PJ Subbarao and Stuart Turvey are featured.

Look for the print version of the CHILD Study article in a special supplement to the Toronto Star newspaper on Saturday, June 28, 2014!

Global TV spotlights "Allergy Pals" program

Anaphylaxis Canada's "Allergy Pals," an online peer support and mentorship program for children with severe food allergies, was recently profiled by Global TV News (Edmonton).

Dr. Miriam Stewart and a team from the University of Alberta developed the mentoring program with support from AllerGen NCE. "The importance of peers is that each of the children in the group understands what it's like to live with allergies", notes Dr. Stewart, adding that the mentoring focuses mainly on how kids can "live normal lives despite coping with allergies - at school, in sports and having fun..."

View the clip here​.

CIC investigators publish new findings for allergic asthma

Researchers at AllerGen's Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC) have discovered that an antibody can block a specific protein in the lungs and reduce the symptoms of inflammation and bronchoconstriction experienced by people with mild allergic asthma.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted at five CIC sites across the country and involved the work of AllerGen Network researchers Dr. Gail Gauvreau, Dr. Paul O'Byrne, Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet, Dr. Donald Cockcroft, Dr. Mark FitzGerald, Dr. Beth Davis and Dr. Richard Leigh.

Epithelial cells in the lung's airways produce a protein called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) that causes inflammation. This study proved for the first time that epithelial cells continually produce TSLP in humans with asthma and that blocking TSLP with an antibody can reduce the symptoms of mild allergic asthma.

These findings have implications for the development of new antibody treatments not only for allergic asthma, but for severe asthma as well, according to Dr. O'Byrne. Dr. Gavreau presented the study at the American Thoracic Society conference in San Diego, CA.

Read the press release|Read the NEJM study

AllerGen-Stanford collaboration advances food allergy research

Dr. Kari Nadeau


A new collaboration between AllerGen and Stanford University will allow young Canadian scientists to pursue advanced food allergy research with Dr. Kari Nadeau, a renowned expert in adult and pediatric allergies.

The Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (SAFAR)/AllerGen Research Fellowship Award will co-fund a $50,000 award for a Canadian investigator (PhD or MD) with an interest in the prevention and treatment of severe food allergies to pursue academic research training with Dr. Nadeau at Stanford University.

Dr. Nadeau leads translational research and clinical studies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and directs the Nadeau Laboratory at Stanford. Her work studies the mechanisms involved in food allergies, oral immunotherapy for multiple food allergies, and eosinophilic esophagitis. To learn more about SAFAR and Dr. Nadeau’s work, click here.

Call for Applications | Application Form
Deadline: September 12, 2014.

Dr. Michael Brauer honoured for research on asthma and the environment

Dr. Michael Brauer


Dr. Michael Brauer, a Professor at the School of Population and Public Health, The University of British Columbia, and an AllerGen Principal Investigator, has been named as the first recipient of the Asthma Society of Canada’s Bastable-Potts Asthma Research Prize. The award, valued this year at $10,000, recognizes innovative Canadian research that adds to the body of knowledge on asthma and its relationship to environmental exposures. Read the press release.

Dr. Brauer also received one of three For Life and Breath Innovation Awards, which celebrate the contributions of individuals whose work has dramatically helped to improve the lives of Canadians with asthma and respiratory allergies. The award was presented on April 30, 2014, during the Asthma Society of Canada’s For Life and Breath: Environment, Asthma and Allergy Summit.

Allergy Pals - Online Mentorship for Kids with Food Allergies

Anaphylaxis Canada has launched Allergy Pals, an online mentorship program designed to provide peer support and mentoring to children (ages 7-11) affected by severe food allergies.

Allergy Pals offers eight online support sessions led by older peer mentors with food allergies. Sessions include interactive activities, including brainstorming, problem solving, goal setting and developing effective coping strategies in a safe and secure online environment.

The program materials were designed by Dr. Miriam Stewart, a Professor of Nursing, and her team at the University of Alberta, with research funding provided by AllerGen NCE. Anaphylaxis Canada, one of the project’s collaborators, has licensed the program in order to support children and teens affected by life threatening allergies.

The first session of Allergy Pals will run from May 18 to July 6, 2014. Click here for more information and to register for the program.

Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet named CIHR 2014 Distinguished Lecturer in Respiratory Sciences