Last week, I traveled to Washington DC to be a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. This is the second year Congress has set aside monies to research the genetics of food allergy. It’s also the second year they have put a panel like this together to look at the scientific merits of the proposals and to make recommendations as to which ones are worthy to receive the large financial award.
All in all, it was three days of meetings. The first evening began with a dedication and moment of silence for the food allergic community. I was honored to be asked to give that dedication. I read a poem by Pablo Neruda about tomatoes (they give me funky mouth ) and talked about how the dream for millions of us with food allergies is to be able to eat foods without adverse reactions.
The rest of that evening and for the two days following, we got down to work. The work set before this very learned panel of allergy researchers and clinicians was to evaluate research proposals which explored the possible genetic causes of food allergy. Together, the panel made recommendations to the Department Of Defense about which proposals were the best formulated and most scientifically sound to fund.
As one of two consumer reviewers, my mission was to rate the potential impact of each proposal upon the food allergic community. Some of the proposals would have tremendous impact, if they worked; others made no sense at all and would have no impact.
The process was fascinating: reading the proposals, listening to my fellow panelists and making recommendations all about the scientific idea of “curing” food allergies through genetics. A few years ago, this kind of research was unheard of; when I was a child I was simply told to avoid the things to which I was allergic, there was no discussion of research or a possible cure. To have congressional monies now dedicated to getting to the genetic root of food allergies is vital and potentially life-saving work for millions of us and I was thrilled to add my voice and expertise to the process.
In a few weeks, the CDMRP will announce the winners of the awards. When they do I’ll post them here. In the meantime, YOU can help congress know that we need continued funding for research into food allergy. Write your congressman directly, here’s a link or contact congress through the Food Allergy Initiative, by sending a pre-written request for more funding.