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Food Allergy Research highlight notice – A joint initiative between the MRC and the Food Standards Agency (FSA)

The Infections and Immunity Board (IIB) and the Food Standards Agency are seeking to expand their portfolio of research and are inviting high quality and innovative proposals from collaborations between immunologists and food allergists aimed at characterising the mechanistic bases of allergic sensitisation and tolerance to food proteins. This highlight notice applies to the 2nd June 2011 IIB deadline only, with applications being considered at the November 2011 Board meeting.

Immunobiology of food allergy

This notice reflects a close alignment between the interests of the MRC and FSA in delivering public health benefits in food allergy through the funding of high quality research focussed on improving our understanding of the relevant immunobiological processes. This notice follows a successful joint MRC-FSA workshop to explore opportunities for greater synergy between immunologists and food allergists in future research to address the current scientific challenges presented by food allergy. A copy of the workshop report can be found here.


Food allergy is a common and important disease, affecting up to 2 per cent of adults and between 5 per cent and 8 per cent of children in the UK. Symptoms vary, but can be severe resulting in systemic anaphylaxis, and occasionally death. There are currently no established primary preventative measures or therapeutic strategies, and the only means of preventing reactions is complete avoidance of the trigger foods coupled with rescue medication.


Although it is well-established that most types of food allergy are associated with IgE antibody, it is becoming increasingly clear that sensitisation to food proteins and the elicitation of food allergic reactions are subject to complex immunoregulatory mechanisms. It is anticipated that a more detailed appreciation of the immunology of food allergy in humans will help provide answers to some important questions, including (but not limited to), the following:

  • What immunological parameters, other than IgE antibody, are important in the development, regulation and resolution of the human immune response in food allergy and how do these factors exert their effects?
  • What factors are responsible for significant inter-individual differences in the severity of food allergic reactions?
  • What are the immunological bases for apparent tissue differences in immune and allergic responses to food proteins?
  • The timing and route of exposure to food proteins appear to have an important impact on the acquisition of allergic sensitisation – why and how is this effected?
  • What are the factors that confer on food proteins the ability to cause allergic sensitisation?


It is anticipated that addressing these issues, via gaining a deeper insight into the fundamental biological mechanisms underpinning food allergy, will enable the delivery of benefits to public health in the following specific areas:

  • Identification and utilisation of important opportunities to improve diagnosis, prognosis and management strategies for food allergy.
  • Identification of risk factors and susceptible subpopulations which will inform public health policy and advice to consumers
  • Design of effective interventions and policies to prevent the development of food allergy, and strategies for desensitisation.


Application process and schedule

The MRC and FSA welcome investigator-initiated research proposals addressing one or more of these issues. In the first instance, this highlight notice will be applied to the IIB May 2011 submission deadline only (with applications being considered at the IIB October 2011 Board Meeting) and may not be extended beyond this.


The deadline for submission is the 2nd June 2011. Applications should be submitted to the MRC Infections and Immunity Board and will be considered in open competition and according to MRC’s standard processes. Applications will be heard at the November 2011 Infections and Immunity Board Meeting


Your proposal must be submitted through the MRC Je-S system by 4pm on the closing date.


Please note applications under this highlight notice are limited to research grant and partnership grant proposals only. Guidance and information on how to complete the application process can be found by following the appropriate link for each scheme.


Supplementary terms and conditions of awards

In addition to MRC’s standard terms and conditions, awards will include supplementary terms and conditions to reflect the joint nature of this initiative which you should read carefully - They are available here.


Further information is available at


Contacts and guidance

Those intending to submit proposals should discuss their plans with MRC head office and/or FSA at an early stage by contacting:


MRC Contact: Dr Paul Colville-Nash





FSA Contact: Dr Joelle Buck


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