The National Eczema Association (NEA) and the Pediatric Dermatology Research Alliance (PeDRA) are excited to announce that the second annual Childhood Eczema Challenge Grant has been awarded to Jennifer Schoch, MD of the University of Florida for her grant proposal titled “Neonatal Cutaneous Microbiome Predictors of Infantile Eczema.” The grant of $50,000 commenced August 1, 2021.
Nearly 10 million U.S. children under the age of 18 are affected by eczema, with one-third affected by moderate-to-severe disease. Despite recent therapeutic advances, the burdens on these patients and their families can be significant, and many important research questions remain unanswered. In 2020, NEA and PeDRA together created the Childhood Eczema Challenge Grant to accelerate research that improves the health and quality of life of pediatric eczema patients and their families.
Dr. Schoch’s investigation builds on animal models that suggest that immune tolerance to cutaneous microbes is acquired early in life and can prevent inflammation upon later re-exposure. Dr. Schoch and her team hypothesize that a parallel exists in humans, specifically that exposure to microbes such as Staphylococcus species early in life confers tolerance and reduces inflammation upon re-exposure. And because Staphylococcus aureus has been implicated in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis/eczema, this early tolerance could be critical in prevention of eczema.
In preliminary data from a pilot study, the team found a decrease in microbial diversity in week two of life. For this grant, Dr. Schoch and her team will correlate differences in the neonatal skin microbiome with the subsequent development of infantile eczema by age one. Specifically, they will compare relative abundance of Staphylococcus aureus from the neonatal period in infants who developed eczema by one year of life, compared to infants who do not develop eczema by one year, toward the goal of understanding how the early establishment of the skin microbiome contributes to healthy and disease states.
“Looking at the first two years of the Childhood Eczema Challenge Grant, I am thrilled to see one project aimed at addressing disparities and another at understanding the earliest triggers of eczema,” said Michael Siegel, PhD, executive director of PeDRA. “We are so excited to see the momentum build with our partnership with NEA around research questions that matter to patients and their families.”
“Dr. Schoch’s work with the microbiome has important implications for our youngest eczema patients, with the potential to lead to preventative approaches that can avert a lifetime with eczema,” said Julie Block, president and CEO of NEA. “This is exactly why we joined with PeDRA to create a grant specifically supporting childhood eczema research.”
In addition to providing meaningful research funding to those awarded, the Challenge Grant furthers the missions and strategic priorities of both NEA and PeDRA. For more information on the Childhood Eczema Challenge Grant, visit https://pedraresearch.org/grants-awards or https://nationaleczema.org/research/research-we-fund/for-researchers/.
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