The prevalence of allergic reaction to foods such as peanuts, eggs, seafood and others is rising across the world. Parents are usually unaware of their child’s food allergy until a distressing and potentially fatal reaction has taken place. When this occurs, it is important to quickly identify the specific allergen, such as nuts, seafood or eggs. This specific food allergy diagnosis can be expensive, time-consuming, inaccurate and dangerous.
The current preferred diagnoses for food allergies include skin prick tests and the oral food challenge. The skin prick test is prone to create false positive results, and can lack specificity – leading to confusion on what foods to avoid.
The oral food challenge is expensive and dangerous, as it involves potentially bringing on a dangerous allergic reaction.
Research towards a non-invasive and simple diagnostic test has preciously failed, focusing on identifying protein biomarkers of allergy. Recent research at Curtin University has focused on new, more reliable indicators for specific food allergies.
Curtin researchers Dr Yong Song and Associate Professor Brad Zhang are developing a food allergy diagnostic test. The diagnostic kit will allow reliable identification of the nature of a food allergy within hours or days of taking a standard blood test.
To date, the pilot data showed that the identified biomarkers had strong sensitivity and specificity for one form of food allergy. Assays to identify similar biomarkers for other allergies are in development.
Following identification of the promising biomarkers, further optimisation and validation studies are required to ensure the sensitivity and selectivity required to give patients and their parents peace of mind using large-scale samples.
At present the results are unpublished, and could form the basis of one or more patent applications. All confidential information and intellectual property is held by Curtin University.
Food allergies, particularly those with severe consequences, have been growing in prevalence over recent years. The market for food allergen testing is growing at around 9% per year, and expected to reach approximately USD775 million by 2022.
Curtin is looking for partners who can assist in the development of a commercial diagnostic kit, and bring it through regulatory approvals to market. We are currently looking for support to leverage research grants to fast-track the identification of biomarkers and complete the diagnostic kit proof of concept.
Dr Tom Hammond, Business Development Manager
Phone: +61 8 9266 2548