Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Research

The pediatric allergy and immunology division has active laboratory-based and clinical research programs, and publishes over 50 scientific papers annually. The research programs focus on inner-city asthma, the role of environmental allergen exposure in allergic disease, the natural history of food allergy, the treatment of food allergy and the pathogenesis of the immune dysfunction in ataxia telangiectasia.

Our faculty has diverse research interests and is actively involved in studies that will improve the care of patients with asthma, food allergy, primary immune deficiency and ataxia telangiectasia.

Food Allergy Research

The dramatic rise in all types of allergies in the past 20 to 30 years, including food allergies, is striking. There is evidence that peanut allergy has doubled just in the last five years. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that all food allergies are on the rise and three million children in the United States — including nearly 8 percent of young children — now have at least one food allergy.

Renowned food allergy expert Robert Wood, M.D., chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and author of Food Allergies for Dummies, was the first to show that some children do outgrow peanut allergy. Our investigators have now shown that, contrary to popular belief, milk and egg allergies are outgrown much more slowly than previously thought and that a great number of children never outgrow them.

Dr. Wood is the principal investigator of 20 different research studies and a co-investigator in five other studies. All are directed, in one way or another, at addressing the critical challenges of asthma and food allergies.

Clinical Research for a Healthier Tomorrow: A Family Shares Their Story

Learn about the importance of clinical research and get insight into participating in clinical research, from the viewpoint of a Principle Investigator, Research Staff, a Research Participant and their Mother.

Current Research and Planned Trials

The Consortium for Food Allergy Research (CoFAR)

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has awarded $51.1 million over the span of seven years to Robert Wood, director of the Eudowood Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology, to continue leading the Consortium for Food Allergy Research (CoFAR). In addition to the leadership center award, Wood received a grant to lead the CoFAR clinical research site at Johns Hopkins through 2031. Johns Hopkins has led the leadership center since 2017 and is one of only three institutions to have been a CoFAR site since its inception in 2005. These grants will be used to develop new protocols focused on novel approaches for treatment of food allergy.

In addition, they will support the continuation of two ongoing CoFAR studies: SUNBEAM (Systems Biology of Early Atopy) and OUtMATCH (Omalizumab as Monotherapy and as Adjunct Therapy to Multiallergen OIT in Food Allergic Children and Adults). The SUNBEAM study is designed to follow children as newborns through 6 years of age to identify why food allergies have become increasingly common, while OUtMATCH is exploring optimal approaches to treat food allergy. Most recently, the OUtMATCH trial found that omalizumab, a previously approved medication for asthma, also helps reduce allergic reactions from accidental exposure to multiple common food allergens, such as peanut, tree nut, egg and milk. Wood was the principal investigator of the project, which led to publication in The New England Journal of Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of omalizumab for patients with one or more food allergies.

Co-investigators on these awards are Jennifer Dantzer, assistant professor of pediatrics, and Melanie Dispenza, assistant professor of medicine.

Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Food Allergy

In 2007, Dr. Wood initiated a study of oral immunotherapy (gradually increasing the exposure to the allergen by mouth) for children with severe, persistent milk allergy. This was the world’s first study of its kind and it produced dramatic results, showing that the average child could tolerate over 100 times more milk after the treatment — and some appeared to be completely cured. A second milk study took place in 2008, demonstrating that oral immunotherapy is superior to sublingual (placing allergen extract under the tongue) treatment. A third study began in 2011 and is focusing on the potential value of combining oral immunotherapy with an anti-allergy medication called Xolair®. This study is still underway.

In 2010, Dr. Wood began a study of both oral and sublingual immunotherapy for peanut allergy, a unique combination that had never been studied for this highly prevalent and potentially deadly allergy. This study was completed and submitted for publication. In addition, two studies started in 2013

  • The world’s first study of oral immunotherapy for wheat allergy
  • A study of peanut immunotherapy in 1- to 3 year-olds. Now that we know enough about the safety of these treatments from studies in adults and older children, this study will help to determine whether treatment could be more effective when started at an earlier age

The Natural History of Childhood Food Allergy

 This is a series of studies conducted over the past 10 years — and which will likely continue for the next 10 to 20 years — on how food allergies behave over time, which are outgrown and which are not, and why they exist, particularly why they have become so much more common in recent years.

The Inner-city Asthma Consortium

Eight academic medical centers, including Hopkins Children’s Center and funded by the NIH, are seeking to unravel the causes of and develop new treatments for asthma in inner-city children. In fact, Dr. Wood is the only doctor in the United States to be a principle investigator on both CoFAR and ICAC studies. Current studies in this consortium include:

  • A birth cohort study of inner-city asthma
  • Studies of immunotherapy for cockroach allergy, the first studies of their kind in the world
  • Studies on other novel treatments for severe asthma

While some of these studies have NIH funding, it is critical to recognize that many could never happen without your support. With sufficient philanthropic funds moving forward, our dream of developing a true cure for food allergy can be realized.

How You Can Help Advance Research

Dr. Wood and his team of experts have extensive experience in clinical and laboratory research in asthma and allergy, including the development of novel allergy treatments. They are therefore especially well-equipped to take on this important challenge. A true treatment is on the horizon within this decade.

For more information on how to help fund these programs and/or the work of Dr. Wood and his team, contact the Office of Development at 410-361-6493.