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A world-first peanut allergy cure is a step closer after a multi-million-dollar cash boost.
Murdoch Children's Research Institute based in Melbourne has developed a promising treatment that combines a gradual introduction of peanuts with probiotics, to switch off the deadly reaction over many months.
The lifesaving treatment has been found to induce tolerance to peanuts in more than 80 per cent of children up to five weeks after finishing treatment.
Capital investment firm OneVentures will invest $8 million in the Probiotic Therapies for Allergy treatment, which will help move the treatment out of the laboratory and into the hands of doctors treating kids with peanut allergies.
The company needs to secure an extra $7 million from investors as part of the push to commercialise the first cure for the most common cause of life-threatening anaphylaxis.
“Peanut allergies are a massive problem and this is an innovative approach. There’s a clear path to a marketable product here that could have tremendous impact globally,” OneVentures managing partner Paul Kelly told The Australian.
“It’s a potential cure.”
Mr Kelly said the investment firm would focus on making the vaccine a product that could be marketed around the world and get it approved by the powerful US Food and Drug Administration.
A randomised trial of 62 children aged 1-10 with peanut allergies found 82 per cent of those who received the peanut-probiotic therapy were able to tolerate the equivalent of up to 16 peanuts after 18 months of treatment.
The treatment included a gradual introduction of peanut flour and daily doses of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus, with children tested 2-5 weeks after final treatment. Four per cent of children who received the placebo could tolerate peanuts. Past studies using just the peanut protein saw fewer than a third of patients gain tolerance.
The hypothesis of the treatment is that by pairing a probiotic with the allergen, it can create the right environment to encourage the immune system away from the default reaction that causes hives, stomach pains and vomiting.
Lead researcher Professor Mimi Tang said further trials had started this year in more than 200 children across Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to test whether tolerance from the combination therapy is longer-lasting, by delaying testing for three months after the therapy has ended.
Prof Tang has previously told the Herald Sun it would be more than five years before it was available to children in the clinic, but she already has plans to test whether the combined therapy works for other food allergies and for adults.
“Based on the results we have seen to date, if nine children were given probiotic and peanut therapy, seven would benefit,” Prof Tang said. “This is a very promising result, and we look forward to seeing further evidence from the current trial and progressing the development of this approach.”