Allergy

Saving lives, improving health and reducing the cost of allergy

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Overview

Allergy happens when a person reacts to substances, called allergens, in the environment that are harmless to most people. Allergens are found in foods, dust mites, pets, pollens, insects, ticks, moulds, vaccines and medications. Almost 20 percent of the Australian population has a confirmed allergic disease – and the numbers are rising.

A child or an adult with allergy can have symptoms which vary depending on the dose of allergen exposure from mild to potentially life-threatening reactions, called anaphylaxis. There are almost 12,000 hospital admissions and approximately 20 deaths from anaphylaxis in Australia each year. The annual cost of allergies to the Australian economy is more than $7 billion.

Food allergy is a major health problem in Australia—in fact, our rates are the highest in the world. A virtually non-existent problem 30 years ago, yet now affecting 10 percent of infants, four to eight percent of children and two to four percent of adults.

There is no cure for food allergy. Management relies on strict allergen avoidance and the timely administration of rescue medications, such as adrenaline via injection, when accidental exposure happens. For those living with food allergy, there is an ever-present risk of life-threatening reactions and reduced quality of life.

Prevention, management and treatment of allergy and anaphylaxis were identified as critical areas of unmet need by the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Allergies and Anaphylaxis. Families of children living with allergies, their clinical management teams and the wider community echo this mandate to reduce the health, social and economic burden of allergy.

The National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE), hosted at the MCRI, launched in August 2022 following a four-year Federal Government investment of $10.2 million. As the country’s peak allergy research body, the NACE will develop infrastructure to enable cutting-edge research into allergy prevention, intervention and management. Four broad pillars will underpin a national plan of action addressing drug, food, insect and respiratory allergic disease: 

  1. An Allergy Research Hub will oversee a Clinical Trials Network and an Allergy Studies Directory to improve access to treatments.
  2. A Repository and Discovery Hub will harness the power of big data analysis to drive individualised healthcare.
  3. An Evidence and Translation Hub will establish living systematic reviews to seamlessly connect evidence and practice.​​
  4. A Training and Innovation Hub will support and mentor the next generation of allergy experts.

Our Allergy Flagship

Our Flagship research programs aim to increase the translation of clinical research into practice. Driving collaboration, leading research and increasing capacity across the Melbourne Children’s Campus are the cornerstones of this work. Allergy is identified as one of the core flagship areas because of its increasing health and economic burden across the developed world, as well as the breadth of existing expertise in allergy research, particularly in the food allergy domain, across campus.

The MCRI Allergy Flagship represents a multi-disciplinary collaboration among a range of internationally recognised researchers, clinicians, clinical trialists, data analysts and biostatisticians. The Flagship will leverage existing allergy-related cohorts and clinical trials, biobanking, Royal Children’s Hospital, clinical data and sophisticated data analytics expertise to tackle the challenging issues facing children living with allergies, as well as their families and communities.

Ultimately, the Allergy Flagship aims to provide children living with allergic diseases access to the best treatments, underpinned by world-leading research. This work has helped position MCRI as a global leader in the field.

With the MCRI Allergy Flagship, we can accelerate our understanding of the prevention, intervention and management of allergic diseases and have a real-life impact on the debilitating health outcomes and costs of allergy in Australia—and beyond.

 

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Key facts

Core projects

The Allergy Flagship has identified two core projects with current efforts focussing on securing funding to deliver them:

Establishing a Melbourne Children’s Allergy Registry

In an Australian-first, the Flagship aims to develop a comprehensive allergy data platform to deliver high-quality research impact and drive rapid change. More information is needed about which treatments work best, when to use them and how patients’ health changes over time. The Melbourne Children’s Allergy Registry would help answer these questions. Tapping into innovative technologies to harmonise MCRI data and biological samples, and with the backing of key stakeholders and consumers, this world-class Allergy Registry can advance population and precision level prevention, early intervention and management of allergy and anaphylaxis. It has the power to revolutionise Australian allergy research and clinical care globally.

Expanding the Melbourne Children’s Allergy Clinical Trials Platform

There is an urgent need for more research into novel allergy therapies and greater access to treatment through participation in clinical trials. The Allergy Flagship oversees 14 trials in progress or imminently starting. Both prevention and treatment clinical trials focus on Allergy Immunology, Population Allergy and Infectious Diseases research. The next step will be to move towards an adaptive allergy trials platform embedded in routine clinical care. This will provide an opportunity for consistent and efficient clinical research, the definition of core outcome measures and long-term follow-up. With support from industry partners, it is hoped the platform can provide leadership in establishing a National Allergy Clinical Trial Network.

Our group members

MemberRole
A/Prof Kirsten Perrett Co-Group Leader, Population Allergy
Prof Mimi Tang Group Leader, Allergy Immunology
Prof Katherine Lee Group Leader, Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics (CEBU)
Prof Richard Saffery Group Leader, Molecular Immunity
Dr Angela Young Programs and Partnerships Manager, Population Allergy

More information