Project Abbie – Harvard researchers partner with allergy foundation to develop wearable auto-injector

anaphylaxis research

The Wyss Institute at Harvard and the KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation have partnered to advance research and development efforts in the early detection and treatment of anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life threatening allergic reaction that affects about 1-2% of the population. It has a rapid onset, usually occurring within minutes after exposure.

Anaphylaxis is treated by an injection of adrenaline, usually carried by the allergic person in the form of an auto-injector. The sooner the adrenaline is administered, the better the outcome for the patient.

Adrenaline can help prevent the anaphylactic reaction becoming anaphylactic shock. Despite this, death due to anaphylaxis is common. It usually occurs because adrenaline is not injected soon enough.

KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation

Abbie Benford was a 15-year-old girl who was diagnosed with multiple allergies and asthma as a toddler. On December 18th 2013, 4 days after suffering an anaphylactic reaction, Abbie died in intensive care.

On the day of her reaction, soon after eating her breakfast, she complained of indigestion and difficulty breathing. Her father, after hearing her wheezing, gave her her nebulizer. He then called 911 and her mother injected first one EpiPen and then another. 20 minutes after the first symptoms appeared, Abbie was unconscious and was in cardiac arrest. Her father started CPR and 6 minutes after the 911 call, EMTs arrived but sadly it was too late for Abbie.

The fast progression of her reaction meant that adrenaline was not administered in time. Her family have since set up the KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation to fund research into technology for early detection and treatment of anaphylaxis and also to increase awareness.


The goal is to understand the processes that signify an anaphylactic reaction will occur at the earliest stages. This could then be used to develop a device that can recognise these processes and once a critical level is reached, inject adrenaline automatically and alert caregivers.

The technology has broad applications. Biochemical analytical methods are being created that continually monitor biomarker levels. New sensor technologies will be able to detect the internal biochemical and physiological changes that signify anaphylaxis. A computer algorithm will be integrated which will then cause the wearable injector to administer the adrenaline.

“At-risk teenagers like Abbie are most likely to be stricken by sudden death from anaphylaxis. Most medical problems can be solved with early detection. For anaphylaxis this is a subjective assessment by the patient that can cause delays in treatment. We believe technology-enabled early detection and treatment will remove ambiguity in the assessment phase, providing patients with early notification and treatment that saves lives. And we think the Wyss Institute team uniquely combines the science, technology and clinical realms to solve this problem” said Stephen Benford, Abbie’s father and Executive Director of The KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation.


Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Allergy Lifestyle Limited (t/a) Allergy Lifestyle) uses reasonable endeavours to check the accuracy of information provided however no warranty is given that they are error-free. Always seek the advice of an allergy specialist and follow your anaphylaxis emergency care plan.

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7 thoughts on “Project Abbie – Harvard researchers partner with allergy foundation to develop wearable auto-injector

  1. Pingback: As Food Allergy Rates Grow, Connected Tech Creates Safety Net - ReadWrite

  2. Raul Crespo says:

    I hope this promising project will soon become a reality. I am a father of a 4 year old child who is extremely allergic to nuts. Unfortunately social awareness in Spain and most of European countries is almost non-existing, therefore many foods include nuts. When my kid was diagnosed and we knew about the traditional injector devices I thought, is not it possible today to have something easier and more accurate? and I started searching in Google. This is how I arrived here. Please, if there is something that I can do to collaborate, please do not hesitate to contact me.

  3. Emily O Neil says:

    This is a wonderful idea and would give great peace of mind to any parent of a child with apaphalaxis. My 15 year old son would absolutely wear it and it would also give him peace of mind. This would have a very positive effect on our family as there have been times we have questioned did our son require adrenaline or not after eating something which was contaminated. Hopefully this product will soon become available

  4. Janet Murphy says:

    Hi it’s a good idea ,probably for younger children.My daughter is 18 and although she might wear it at times she wouldn’t when shes out socializing where she’s most vulnerable.I just bought a new discreet medical bracelet as she refused to wear her medical necklace going out…luckily she has the sense to bring her Emerade pens everywhere.

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