Identical twins Eric and Evan Edwards both have severe food allergies and they have been developing a new type of epinephrine delivery system they call an EpiCard. They started their privately-held company, Intelliject, straight out of college with funding from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, institutional investors, friends and family and "angel" investors.
I had a chance to interview them via email about their allergies and their company.
Health Central: Is the Edwards family an allergic one?
Intelliject's Edwards Twins: No -- we are the only ones in our family with life-threatening allergies.
HC: That must have been a challenge for your parents. How old were you when diagnosed? What episode led to the diagnosis?
IE: We were colicky infants and frequently visited the Emergency Room with episodes of hives, vomiting and difficulty breathing. A neighbor insisted that our parents should take us to an allergist due to these episodes. Once we went to an allergist, our parents were told of the severity of our allergies: specifically anaphylactic to all tree-nuts, peanuts, seafood, eggs, most antibiotics and bee venom. This diagnosis was made before we could walk. Our mother was told by our allergist that we were the most allergic children he had ever treated.
HC: So you both have the same allergies? Do you know if this is typical of identical twins?
IE: Since identical twins come from the same fertilized egg, one might assume that identical twins would have identical allergies. However, we've learned that the tendency to develop allergies is only partly genetically based. This is a complex issue and experts have come to realize that there are several other factors that can lead to this tendency, including environmental influences. For us, we've found that we were mostly allergic to the same foods but at different levels of severity.
HC: Evan, you talk about a close call on the Intelliject website. Just wondering: where was your emergency epinephrine auto injector when that occurred?
IE: The most recent severe food allergy reaction was a couple of years ago in a Tapas Bar in Northern Virginia. I had left my epinephrine injector in my car at home; we had taken our friends' car to the restaurant and I had forgotten to grab the EpiPen. Fortunately, the local hospital was just minutes away.
HC: That is very fortunate! Eric, your child has allergies. What are your concerns as an allergic parent for an allergic child?
IE: As you would probably guess, I have a much greater appreciation for what my parents went through while I was growing up with severe food allergies. It is very different being a parent versus a patient. As an adult patient, I feel like I have greater control over managing my risk for a severe allergic reaction. However, as a parent, I worry much more about my daughter having a severe reaction. This is because I have limited control in ensuring that those who come in contact with my daughter (e.g. school teachers, nurses, etc.) know exactly what to look for with a reaction, how to respond, and how to use the EpiPen correctly. You can educate and reinforce others, but you never really know how they will respond during a true emergency until one occurs.