Public Release: 

Bay Area Lyme Foundation awards diagnostic grant to Harvard Medical School researchers

2015 Emerging Leader Award seeks to accelerate development of accurate diagnostic for Lyme disease

DDC

Portola Valley, Calif., May X, 2015 - Bay Area Lyme Foundation, the leading national nonprofit funder of innovative Lyme disease research, today announced that the winners of its 2015 Emerging Leader Award, are collaborators Nira Pollock, MD, PhD, and John Branda, MD. The $100,000 grant that accompanies this award will support their research on a potential biomarker for Lyme disease, which may lead to the development of a novel urine test for early Lyme disease. The most commonly used diagnostic for Lyme disease, the two-tier serological ELISA/Western Blot process, misses up to 60% of cases of early stage Lyme disease.

"Without an accurate and reliable diagnostic, patients suffer with unexplained symptoms and miss the opportunity for early treatment," said Bonnie Crater, co-founder, vice president and Science Committee Chair, Bay Area Lyme Foundation, which funds several other research grants throughout the year. "We are hopeful that the approach of Drs. Pollock and Branda, which taps learnings from other diseases, will lead to a more direct way to detect the bacteria that causes Lyme disease than the current methods."

Nira Pollock, M.D., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pathology at Harvard Medical School, Associate Medical Director of the Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at Boston Children's Hospital, and a member of the faculty of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Her collaborator, John A. Branda, M.D., is Assistant Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and Assistant Pathologist and Associate Director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratories at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"Support from the Bay Area Lyme Foundation offers us a great opportunity to validate our previous findings and discover new biomarkers using samples from patients with early Lyme disease," said Dr. Pollock. Added Dr. Branda, "Our hope is that findings from this round of research will bring us closer to developing an accurate diagnostic test."

The most commonly used Lyme diagnostic tests are designed to detect the body's response to the bacteria, and not for the bacteria itself; it can take 2-4 weeks for the body to generate this response. This is why these tests have been shown to miss up to 60% of early Lyme cases.

Pollock and Branda, in collaboration with Dr. Antonio Campos-Neto at the Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, MA recently identified a promising way to more directly diagnose Lyme disease through detection of a biomarker for the agent of infection (Borrelia burgdorferi) in urine samples from patients with the disease. To do this, they used proven techniques previously applied to the discovery of novel diagnostic biomarkers of two other global diseases: tuberculosis and leishmaniasis. The Emerging Leader Award will fund research that builds on their promising preliminary findings by allowing researchers to analyze urine samples collected from several adult patients with early Lyme disease at centers in Rhode Island and Nantucket. Funding from Bay Area Lyme Foundation will allow these collaborators to complete a critical portion of the clinical research that will synergize with work performed under a pre-approved grant from NIH/NIAID for the development of the diagnostic test.

The Emerging Leader Award from Bay Area Lyme Foundation is given annually and designed for promising scientists who have identified a defined approach to improved diagnostics or therapies for Lyme disease. Emerging Leader Award candidates must be early in their professional careers, have demonstrated leadership and focused research objectives. Candidates submitted a viable proposal for a proof-of-concept, with a plan of completion within 12 to 18 months.

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Researchers interested in applying for the 2016 Emerging Leader Award or learning about the other grants that Bay Area Lyme Foundation offers throughout the year should contact info@bayarealyme.org.

About Lyme Disease

One of the fastest growing vector-borne infectious diseases in the United States, Lyme disease is a potentially debilitating infection caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of an infected tick to people and pets. If caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be treated, but it is commonly misdiagnosed due to lack of awareness and unreliable diagnostic tests. If not treated promptly, Lyme may progress to a debilitating stage, becoming difficult, or impossible, to cure. The CDC has reported that about 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.

About Bay Area Lyme Foundation

Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national nonprofit organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure is the leading sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the U.S. A national 501c3 non-profit organization, the Foundation collaborates with world-class scientists and institutions to accelerate medical breakthroughs for Lyme disease. It is also dedicated to providing reliable, fact-based information so that prevention and the importance of early treatment is common knowledge. For more information on Lyme disease or to get involved, visit http://www.BayAreaLyme.org or call us, 650-530-2439.

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