Apr 12: UMC Utrecht to coordinate research on allergy risk assessment of ‘novel foods’

Apr 12: UMC Utrecht to coordinate research on allergy risk assessment of ‘novel foods’

UMC Utrecht will coordinate a large allergy risk research consortium that will develop tools to assess the allergic potential of so-called ‘novel foods’. Kitty Verhoeckx, PhD, assistant professor food allergy at UMC Utrecht, has received a Marie Sklodowska-Curie DN grant of € 2.6 million for a food allergy research project titled ‘Allergenicity Prediction Toolbox for novel foods’ (ALLPreT). She will coordinate the project of 10 early stage researchers (ESRs) and 24 international partners.

Introduction of novel foods, such as insects, will strongly contribute to the security and sustainability of our food supply. However, these novels foods need to be safe. Allergenicity assessment is an essential part of the safety assessment of novel foods. Unfortunately, current methods to assess de novo allergenicity lack predictive power and are not validated. Consequently, food producers and risk assessors struggle with allergenicity assessment, slowing down the introduction of novel foods in our food supply. The overall goal of ALLPreT is to train the next generation of scientists who can tackle the shortcomings in the current food allergy assessment of novel food products.

Multidisciplinary team

Enabling the safe introduction of novel foods, while protecting humans from unacceptable food allergy risks, calls for a multidisciplinary approach. The ALLPreT consortium, coordinated by Kitty Verhoeckx, PhD (assistant professor food allergy at the department of Dermatology & Allergology at UMC Utrecht), is a highly multidisciplinary group of 24 partners from universities, research institutes, hospitals, patient organisations and industry. The partners are located in 10 European countries and the USA. The ALLPreT consortium arises from the EU COST Action ImpARAS (Improved Allergenicity Risk Assessment Strategy), which from 2014-2018 was also coordinated by Kitty Verhoeckx.

Educating young scientists

ALLPreT will train 10 early stage researchers (ESRs) in the core aspects of food allergy risk assessment, immunology, protein chemistry, bioinformatics, model development and complementary “soft” skills to deliver well educated young scientists, with a unique position within the EU labor market. The ESRs will explore the new field of research on de novo sensitization by novel foods and develop a toolbox of in vitro/in vivo/in silico allergenicity prediction tools that are scientifically sound, validated and easily usable by industry and food safety authorities. This toolbox will contribute to fast and accurate safety assessment, thereby speeding up safety approval and market uptake of novel foods.

Marie Curie Doctoral Networks (DN)

The objective of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Doctoral Networks is to implement doctoral programs, by partnerships of universities, research institutions and infrastructures, businesses including SMEs, and other socio-economic actors from different countries across Europe and beyond. These doctoral programs will respond to well-identified needs in various research and innovation areas, expose the researchers to the academic and non-academic sectors, and offer research training, as well as transferable skills and competences relevant for innovation and long-term employability.

Working at UMC Utrecht





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