A new kind of immunotherapy.
Peanut allergy is common in Australia and the US. If peanuts are consumed in an allergic individual, it can result in anaphylaxis – a medical emergency that requires an EpiPen and immediate medical attention. However, there have been exciting trials exposing individuals to very small amounts of peanuts in an attempt to lessen the severity of reactions they experience.
To counter that extreme reaction, researchers are working on a patch that works to lessen that severity. And it’s just become the first of its kind to enter phase 3 clinical trials, the last human trial needed before the US FDA gets a chance to evaluate and (hopefully for the company) approve it.
The patch targets the immune system and has shown extremely promising results! After years of wearing the patches, people who could not tolerate even a 10th of a peanut are now able to consume a whole handful of peanuts without a reaction. It is still uncertain exactly how long it will take the patch to work.
Inside each patch is a sprayed-on sample of peanut protein. Once you put it on, the protein makes its way into your immune system through your skin. Since it’s delivered this way, the allergen never makes it to the blood stream, which would cause the allergic reaction you’re trying to avoid. Ideally, when worn daily for a year or so, the patch makes it possible for people with peanut allergies to consume a small amount of peanuts, according to David Schilansky, the company’s chief operating officer.
Whilst individuals may still have to watch the amount of peanuts they consume, even with the patch, this is a huge step forward in alleviating peanut related emergencies and anxiety. Prior to this method, a small amount of peanut was fed to a person in an attempt to desensitise them and therefore lessen the reaction. The issue with this method is that is can be highly risky and can result in an allergic reaction.
Allergies are your immune system’s response to a substance that may not be harmful to others. They’re the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the US. According to the CDC, an estimated 4 to 6 percent of children in the US have food allergies, with peanuts being one of the worst offenders. The patch is being studied for its effects on children aged four to 11 who can benefit the most from having less severe allergies.
Food allergies are stressful for the individuals themselves and also parents or carers of someone with an allergy. This patch would therefore be a weight off many minds and could be applied to other common allergens with more research.
Allergies can be constant and life-threatening, Schilansky said. With children, the problem can be even scarier. Schilansky said that the peace of mind that comes with knowing your child won’t have an extreme allergic reaction is what DBV’s Viaskin is all about.
“This is a new method of immunotherapy,” Pierre-Henri Benhamou, DBV’s CEO, told Business Insider, which means there will be a lot of room to expand.
Up next, Benhamou said the company is continuing research on using the patch for other food allergies such as milk and eggs – among the most common food allergies – and other non-food allergies that are connected to asthma. And after that, DBV plans to explore allergy vaccines that would ideally keep allergies from happening.
The Phase 3 trial, which will set DBV up for the FDA to decide whether it wants to approve the patch, is taking place in five different countries, and DBV plans to enroll more than 330 children.