Using her firsthand experience, Debbie Taback of Mountain View co-founded Latitude Food Allergy Care, a specialty food allergy clinic in Redwood City that aims to help children and adults through the diagnosis, potentially life-saving therapy trials and later management of the allergy.
Taback and her clinic co-founders hope to give parents what they wish they had when they were learning about their own children’s serious food allergies: reassurance that they can handle all of the situations thrown their way.
Taback’s daughter was diagnosed with five different food allergies by age 3. By the time she was 5, nearly all of the allergies had subsided – all but her allergy to sesame, which is in a surprising number of food products but is not listed on most U.S. Food and Drug Administration labels due to its rank as the 11th most common allergy, according to Taback – only the top 10 are listed. Then Taback had twin boys, who were both allergic to nuts. In the three and a half years between her children’s births, research had advanced so much that she learned it was possible to mitigate the side effects that accompanied the life-threatening allergies.
Taback joined the nascent food allergy research program at Stanford University and helped launch the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research. Two of her children underwent clinical trials at Stanford, Taback said, noting that they were fortunate to participate as there is a wait list.
During the clinical trials, Taback met Kim Yates, whose daughter was the first participant to undergo a multi-allergen oral immunotherapy treatment (desensitizing the patient by introducing very small portions of what they are allergic to into their food) at the university. The moms realized that there was a huge gap between access to “true food allergy diagnosis” and emerging treatments.
Many of the staff members who work at Latitude are food allergy parents themselves, such as the patient care coordinators who regularly guide parents with newly diagnosed children through everyday experiences like how to incorporate oral immunotherapy into their daily routines.
“You can be incorporating these things in a fun way,” Taback said. “My kids line up for a spoonful of Nutella … as a part of their dosing. They find it so fun because they get to pick foods that have their allergen in it (for exposure purposes). It’s a total mind shift for families.”
Behind the scenes
Los Altos resident Mike Kaplan met now-CEO Yates two years ago, when talk of opening a clinic had just begun. He found Yates’ passion for food allergy care inspiring, he said, and offered to run the business side of the clinic. After researching the need for such care, Kaplan saw an opportunity.
“The increasing incidence of severe food allergies was well understood, as was the risk of an anaphylactic event and the understanding of how much anxiety these families endure,” Kaplan told the Town Crier. “But we did need to evaluate whether insurance companies would cover treatment, what the staffing model would be, what clinical protocols to follow, how the clinic could stay in touch with patients between visits and the like.”
Kaplan estimated that approximately six months of research yielded a unanimous result: The business was not just viable, but attractive. They subsequently formed the company, raised the money and hired a team. Kaplan called the opening of the first clinic “an exciting day for all of us,” and added that he and Yates hope to take the model nationwide.
Latitude Food Allergy Care is located at 570 Price Ave., Suite 400, Redwood City. For more information, visit latitudefoodallergycare.com.