As a kid, Sean Parker — the co-founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook — spent a lot of time in the hospital due to reactions to food allergies. Parker is violently allergic to nuts, shellfish and other foods. Now that he is a dad with two small kids who are genetically predisposed to developing their own food allergies, Parker wants to see an end to the issue. So he is donating $24 million in the hopes of finding a cure.
Parker recently announced that he plans to donate the funds over the next two years to establish an allergy research center at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The focus of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research will be to understand why allergic reactions occur and to find the safest and best treatments methods available.
"We have been applying Band-Aids for decades by using antihistamines to treat symptoms instead of going after the root cause of allergies," Parker said.
Parker told reporters that he spent much of his senior year of high school in the hospital thanks to a bronchial infection that developed as a result of his food allergies. In the last six years alone, his food allergies have sent him to the hospital 14 times.
Parker is thankful that neither his 2-year-old daughter nor his 2-week-old son have shown any signs of food allergies, but he knows all too well that they could still develop them.
"Now that I'm a father, I'm sympathetic to what my parents went through," he said. "It's terrifying for parents to see their child go through anaphylactic shock because of an allergic reaction."
Parker also added that he hopes to assist in the research efforts whenever possible.
"There are some things on the horizon that are very promising, and I'll be the first in line to try them," he noted.
The center will be led by Dr. Kari Nadeau, an immunology researcher who has developed an experimental treatment called "oral immunotherapy" for patients with food allergies. The treatment exposes children to small amounts of substances to which they are allergic, in an effort to desensitize them from reactions. She told reporters that it has been used to treat more than 700 patients over the past three years.
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