No more EpiPens? Israeli breakthrough will make nut allergies disappear

June 20, 2023

Sheba Hospital and Volcani Institute researchers invent peanut powder that accustoms the body to the food safely.

Sheba Hospital’s ARC Center recently presented a new food powder that may change the lives of millions who have dangerous nut allergies by accustoming the body to the food safely, Channel 12 reported Monday.

“To get a person, even a child to … eat without having an allergic reaction, you have to feed him what he’s allergic to,” Dr. Mona Kidon, head of the allergy clinic in the Safra Children’s Hospital in Sheba’s medical center, explained to Channel 12.

There were already such ways to wean people off of dairy and egg allergies, but it didn’t work for peanuts, which are often life-threatening. Those with an anaphylactic allergy carry EpiPens wherever they go just in case they are in need of an emergency injection of epinephrine to allow them to breathe after an inadvertent exposure to the product.

Kidon began collaborating with Dr. Ran Hovav, a peanut expert in the Volcani Institute, the largest center in Israel that focuses on agricultural research.

They decided to take the peanut at an unripe stage, when the allergenic proteins have not yet made their appearance, and make a powder out of it. They gave the powder to selected parents and told them to make whatever foods they wanted out of it, from pancakes to cookies. By raising the amount of powder gradually, they exposed the children to peanuts slowly and safely throughout the clinical test.

“Giving them one to two cookies a day for 40 weeks brought them to the point where… they could eat a small bag of Bamba [Israel’s ubiquitous peanut-flavored treat], and half a year later they’re successfully passing out exit test – eating 100 pieces of Bamba,” Dr. Kidon said.

The treatment was so successful that it is now being optimized, the researcher said, and soon industrial production will begin of peanut cookies made from this powder.

The same process can work for other nuts as well, Kidon pointed out.

“This platform is not only for peanuts,” she said. “We know how to do it with walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds – any of these things can [use this process], which is a safe and good, to move a child from a place where his life is in danger when he eats something to a place where he can eat like children all over the world.”

“We think … the treatment we developed here can affect all those children all over the world who today cannot eat different types of foods and whose lives are in danger on a daily level,” added Prof. Eyal Zimlichman, VP of Innovation and Transformation at Sheba. “If we succeed in cracking this – then we will have made an impact not only in Israel, but on all of humanity.”

The ARC Center in Sheba was established in 2019 and named for its strategy, to Accelerate innovation and Redesign healthcare by Collaborating with startups and industry giants in order to bring their new healthcare solutions to the public. Its annual three-day summit begins Tuesday in Tel Aviv, where more than 800 participants will hear of the center’s recent breakthroughs and future plans.

Published June 12, 2023 World Israel News

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