MedUni Vienna: International food allergy research consortium kicks off

MedUni Vienna among international partners at the ALLPreT project

The ALLPreT project, an international research consortium to develop new approaches, tools, and assays that enable the safe introduction of novel foods, has now kicked off. ALLPreT has the objective of protecting humans from unacceptable food allergy risks. The consortium brings together academic and associated partners – including MedUni Vienna – from across Europe and the United States. It offers opportunity to early stage researchers to gain experience and skills with 10 new PhD-positions within the consortium.

Introduction of novel foods, such as insects or clover, will contribute to the security and sustainability of our food supply. However, such novel foods need to be safe. Allergenicity assessment is, therefore, an essential part of the safety assessment of novel foods. Unfortunately, currently available methods to assess the allergenicity of novel foods lack predictive power and are not validated. Consequently, food producers and risk assessors struggle with allergenicity assessment, which slows the introduction of novel foods into our food supply. Enabling the safe introduction of novel foods while protecting humans from unacceptable food allergy risks calls for a multidisciplinary approach. The overall goal of ALLPreT (‘Allergenicity Prediction Toolbox’) is to train the next generation of scientists who can tackle the shortcomings in the current food allergy assessment of novel food products.

Multidisciplinary collaboration

The ALLPreT consortium, coordinated by University Medical Center Utrecht, is a multidisciplinary collaboration of 9 full partners and 15 associated partners from universities, research institutes, hospitals, patient organizations and industry, located in 10 European countries and the United States

Safe introduction of novel foods

ALLPreT aims to discover new approaches, tools, and assays to enable the safe introduction of novel foods and protect humans from unacceptable food allergy risks. This will be done by unravelling food allergy mechanisms (e.g., route of sensitization (oral, respiratory, and skin), involvement of immune cells, in vitro/in vivo responses, investigating intrinsic properties of allergenic proteins (e.g., epitopes, digestibility, physicochemical properties) and exploring the use of a threshold of sensitization.

Leading MedUni Vienna scientist Michelle Epstein will be responsible for one of the PhD projects focused on in vivo models of food allergy, which aims to answer questions like: 1) how do people develop food allergy? 2) which route of entry do allergens works best to induce allergy in people? 3) does inhalant allergies lead to food allergies? Michelle Epstein says that: “I think that it will be possible to identify critically important factors involved in the development of food allergy during this project. We look forward to being a part of a bigger project with 9 other PhD students who will address several aspects of food allergy.”

New positions for PhD candidates

ALLPreT offers 10 PhD positions for early-stage researchers in The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Serbia, and Bulgaria. The candidates will be trained in the core aspects of food allergy risk assessment, immunology, protein chemistry, bioinformatics, model development and complementary “soft” skills. The call for applications for the ALLPreT PhD positions is now open and the deadline for applications is October 31, 2022. More details can be found here on the ALLPreT website.

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