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Southampton to lead 2.2m Natasha trial to treat people living with food allergies

Updated: May 18


Southampton researchers will lead a major new nationwide trial, funded by a charity set up by Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s parents, to treat peanut and milk allergies.


Children and young people with milk and peanut allergies can take part in the pioneering Natasha trial at the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, as well as other sites across the UK.


It aims to prove that everyday foods containing peanut and milk, taken under medical supervision, can be used as a treatment for those who are allergic to them.


Natasha’s legacy


The three-year oral immunotherapy (OIT) trial will be the first major study funded by The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. This charity was set up by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died aged 15 from a severe food allergic reaction. Her death prompted the creation of Natasha’s Law, which set new requirements for allergen labelling at food outlets.


The £2.2m trial will be funded by a gift to the University of Southampton and delivered in partnership with University Hospital Southampton.


The trial aims to show that everyday foods containing peanut or milk, taken carefully according to a standardised protocol under medical supervision, can be used as an alternative to expensive pharmaceutical drugs to desensitise patients.


If successful, participants with persistent food allergy will be able to live their lives without needing to avoid foods that might contain small amounts of allergens due to production. It could also mean they can eat popular foods like cakes, curries and pizza with their friends

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Natasha’s Foundation has received donations from its Research Founding Partners (a consortium of food businesses) and fundraising and donations from Natasha’s Army of supporters.


Leading the trial


The trial will be led by Professor Hasan Arshad at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, in partnership with Dr Paul Turner at Imperial College London. They will run the trial together with University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Newcastle University and Sheffield Children’s Hospital.


It aims to recruit a total of 216 people between the ages of three and 23 with food allergy to cow’s milk, and aged six to 23 with food allergy to peanut.


Participants will complete an initial 12 months of desensitisation, carried out to a standardised protocol under strict medical supervision. They will then be monitored for a further two years in order to report on longer-term safety and cost-effectiveness.


The aim is to bring the level of evidence to a point where OIT using commercially available foods could be approved for use in the NHS to treat food-allergic patients most at risk of anaphylaxis.


Prof Arshad, Professor of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Southampton and head of the Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology department at University Hospital Southampton, said:


“This project presents a unique opportunity to establish immunotherapy as a practical treatment that will allow people with food allergies to live a normal life.


“I am immensely proud that the University of Southampton will be leading this trial in collaboration with an elite group of partner universities and clinical allergy centres.”


Food not pharmaceuticals


In December 2021, NHS England announced the availability of Palforzia – a Nestlé-owned branded immunotherapy treatment for peanut taken daily for at least 2 years to treat children with peanut allergy.


In contrast, the first NATASHA trial will use everyday foods instead of expensive pharmaceuticals for OIT. This could open up potential life-long treatment for hundreds of thousands of people living with allergies, at a fraction of the cost to the NHS.


Natasha’s parents Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, who were both awarded OBEs this year for their services to charity and people with allergies, officially announced the trial today.


Tanya said: “We have been determined that Natasha’s death should not be in vain. Following the successful implementation of Natasha’s Law, which has brought new ingredient and allergen labelling, we are delighted to announce the first NATASHA Trial.”


For more details about the trial, and for details of how to express an interest in joining the NATASHA Trial, go to www.narf.org.uk/trials.


Image courtesy of the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation.