SAN FRANCISCO – Napster co-founder Sean Parker missed most of his final year in high school and has ended up in the emergency room countless times because of his deadly allergy to nuts, shellfish and other foods.
Now that the former Facebook president is the father of two small children who have a genetic basis to develop allergies, he says he wants to help find a lasting cure to allergies.
Parker announced Wednesday that he is donating $24 million over the next two years to establish an allergy research centre at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
“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.
The Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research will focus on understanding the dysfunctions of the immune system that result in allergic reactions and on finding the safest and best treatments for allergies through laboratory and data research, clinical trials and community outreach.
The Silicon Valley entrepreneur said he missed most of his senior year of high school because he was hospitalized with a bronchial infection due to severe allergies and asthma. Parker said his severe allergic reactions have sent him to the hospital 14 times in the last six years.
Parker, 35, said neither his 2-year-old girl nor his 2-week-old boy have allergies but he knows they could 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.”
The centre will be led by Dr. Kari Nadeau, an immunology researcher who focuses on allergies on children and adults. Nadeau has developed an allergy treatment that involves giving patients micro-doses of the allergen and increasing the amount ingested — over months or years — to build tolerance overtime.
“The goal is to be able to achieve desensitization in a couple of weeks,” Parker said.