Palforzia and Red Sneakers for Oakley Club shine light on allergies


Lé-Anne Johnson '21

The FDA approved Palforzia, an oral immunotherapy indicated for the mitigation of allergic reactions, January 23.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a Health and Human Services agency, approved Palforzia, a peanut allergy drug treatment for children, January 23.  This drug alleviates the usual effects of allergic reactions such as hives, swelling, cramps, and anaphylaxis, according to  Sacred Heart Greenwich senior Sophia Georgas, who is allergic to tree nuts, hopes to use her platform as the head of the Red Sneakers for Oakley Club to spread awareness about the severity of allergies.

An estimated 5.6 million children have allergies in America and 1.2 million of those children have peanut allergies, according to  Allergies can restrict people from having a normal routine or experiencing new foods, places, and more, because of a possible association with an allergen, according to CNN.

Aimmune Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that develops new treatments for people with potentially life-threatening food allergies, created Palforzia for children ages four through 17.  The drug is a peanut allergen powder that prevents or mitigates allergic reactions.  Patients ingest the powder through semi-solid foods such as yogurt and applesauce, according to

Patients will take the Palforzia drug treatment powder in room temperature semi-solid foods such as applesauce, yogurt, and pudding.  Courtesy of

The treatment process consists of three phases.  Each phase helps the patient acclimate to the effects of the allergen.  First, patients receive Initial Dose Escalation in a single day with medical administration.  This step has five dosage levels to help the patient become accustomed to the effects of the peanut in the drug.  The second phase, Up-Dosing, consists of 11 dosage levels that the patient takes for two weeks.  Patients continue to take the highest dosage of Palforzia daily for as long as they desire during Maintenance, the third and final phase, according to

Palforzia consists of peanut protein powder and can cause anaphylaxis, which may be life-threatening and can occur at any time during treatment.  In order to prevent this, the patient can start with a smaller dose during the Initial Dose Escalation phase.

The FDA tested the effectiveness of Palforzia through a study of 500 children with peanut allergies in the United States, Canada, and Europe.  After conducting experiments, the FDA found that about 67 percent of the patients tolerated the dosage of peanut protein during the full treatment, according to

Although people over the age of 17 are not yet approved to begin this treatment, children who begin between the ages of four and 17 may continue for as long as they wish, according to

Red Sneakers for Oakley is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the dangers of food allergies.  Mr. Robert Debbs and Mrs. Merrill Debbs created Red Sneakers for Oakley after the passing of their 11-year-old son Oakley Debbs, who died from anaphylaxis after accidentally eating a cake with walnuts, according to

Sophia started a chapter of the organization at Sacred Heart to spread information about allergies and other food sensitivities in the community.

In addition to Sophia, the club consists of freshmen Alexandra Bastone, Mackenzie Coleman, Charlotte Gannon, Sia Goyal, Sophia Morales, and Emma Neary, sophomore Caitlyn Petrizzo, juniors Grace Coale and Delaney Coleman, and seniors Olivia Andrews and Daniella Tocco.  Grace discussed the significance Palforzia will have in creating awareness about peanut allergies.

“If someone with a peanut allergy accidentally ate peanuts, instead of going into anaphylactic shock they would get hives, which is much better than the alternative,” Grace said.  “This drug made to help people that suffer from dealing with food allergies also helps spread awareness about the severity of the condition, and how others can be mindful of that.”

Grace, who has tree nut allergies, always carries two EpiPens wherever she goes and is aware of what other people near her are eating in case she needs to distance herself.  An EpiPen is a hypodermic, mobile device that administers a dose of epinephrine in the user to treat an acute allergic reaction in emergency situations, according to

The Red Sneakers for Oakley Club plans to have various fundraisers during the school year to support research for allergy cures.  Sophia believes that Palforzia is a vital step toward creating comfort for children with peanut allergies.

“I hope that this drug will be able to make those with allergies feel more comfortable in their daily lives,” Sophia said.  “I can’t wait to see the development of allergy treatment over the years because eventually, I would like to try it myself.”

Sophia Georgas ’20 accepts the first place Documentary Award for Live Like Oaks from Ms. Shelly Tatro, television producer, at the 2019 annual Sacred Heart Film Festival.  Courtesy of Mr. Ed Stewart

Sophia also produced and directed Live Like Oaks, to share the story behind the Red Sneakers for Oakley Club.  Sophia received the first place Documentary Award for the film at the 2019 Sacred Heart Film Festival.  She also won a first-place award in the 2019 Sacré Coeur Australia Awards at a Sacred Heart network school in Melbourne Australia and was a finalist at the 2018 Connecticut Scholastic Art Awards.

“I hoped to share the Debbs’ story and help them raise awareness about the severity of allergies,” Sophia said.  “After I made the documentary, I received pictures from people at parties, dinners, and other places holding their EpiPens to show that I truly made an impact on how they approached their allergies.”

Featured Image by Lé-Anne Johnson ’21