Fiona Brinkman


SFU-led project yields new directions for allergy research

October 15, 2014

By Diane Luckow

Scientists seeking clues to the mystery of allergic responses, and how to prevent or treat them, now have a practical tool that should inspire fresh research directions.

The Allergy and Asthma Portal (AAP) is a novel database that permits scientists to study, for the first time, how genes, proteins and other molecules change and interact with each other as a ‘system’ to create allergic and asthmatic reactions.

Simon Fraser University bioinformatics professor Fiona Brinkman came up with the idea after working on a similar network-based project to identify immune-boosting therapies against infectious diseases.

She’s hopeful that the AAP database and its visualization tools will encourage scientists to make new connections that weren’t apparent when studying allergy-causing proteins, genes and other molecules in isolation.

She has spent the past several years leading the AAP project in collaboration with professor David Lynn of Flinders University in Australia, and a network of AllerGen researchers across Canada.

“Allergies have become essentially epidemic in Canada,” says Brinkman. “We have to come up with better approaches for improving treatment, and reducing development of allergies in the first place.

"This database provides practical help for researchers dealing with very complex diseases. It’s not the final answer—there’s a lot more integration to be done, but it’s certainly a notable step in the right direction.”

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