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Sean Parker Gives $24 Million to Stanford to Study Food Allergies

Parker suffers from severe food allergies, and now he’s hoping to help fund a cure.

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Silicon Valley investor Sean Parker will donate $24 million to fund Stanford University School of Medicine researchers looking for new ways to treat severe food allergies in children and adults with the goal of developing a cure.

Parker has spoken about his severe food allergies before, most notably a scary incident three years ago in Davos during the World Economic Forum when he was rushed to the hospital.

It was one of about 14 trips to the emergency room that Parker estimated he has taken in the past four or so years.

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Parker says he’s allergic to peanuts, tree nuts such as pecans, shellfish and a few legumes. He has suffered from severe food allergies since he was a child.

“I understand firsthand how difficult it is to handle this,” Parker told reporters earlier this week. The school has established the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research, which the Facebook investor will fund over the next two years.

He said one reason he decided to fund the new center is that he is now a father and understands the fear his parents went through when he was a child. Parker’s wife, Alexandra, gave birth to the couple’s second child, a boy, a few weeks ago. It’s too early to know if he might also have food allergies. But the couple’s older child, a two-year-old daughter, so far has had no food-related allergic reactions, Parker said.

Allergy research has taken a backseat to other forms of immunological diseases, Parker said, which is partly why he was interested in funding the new Stanford research center, which will focus on finding better treatments for allergies as well as looking at why people develop them.

“There are huge gaps in our knowledge,” said Dr. Kari Nadeau, an immunology researcher who will lead the new research center. Parker says Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg introduced him to Nadeau, who has gained some fame in the food allergy world for her research at Stanford involving a desensitizing plan for patients who suffer from allergies to multiple foods. Her work was featured in a New York Times magazine story last year.

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