The Bay Area Lyme Foundation Emerging Leader Award (ELA) recognizes up-and-coming researchers bringing new approaches and creative thinking to the field of Lyme disease. The $100,000 grant award supports new and innovative projects and aims to attract aspiring new scientific talent to the field of Lyme.

Candidates must be early in their professional careers with demonstrated leadership and focused research objectives. Applications must include a viable proposal for a proof-of-concept to be funded, in part or in sum, by the grant award and completed within 12-18 months.

2015 ELA Recipients

Bay Area Lyme Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015  Emerging Leader Award. This year’s award is to be shared by a collaborating team, John A. Branda, MD and  Nira Pollock, MD, PhD, working on a new diagnostic method:

“Development of a Novel and Highly Accurate Test for Early Lyme Disease by Discovering Novel B. burgdorferi Protein Biomarkers in the Urine of Patients with 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. See press release for more information.

John Branda_ELA Award RecipientJohn A. Branda, MD

Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School and Assistant Pathologist, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Associate Director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratories at MGH and Director of the Clinical Laboratory at Nantucket Cottage Hospital

Nira Pollock, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, and Associate Medical Director of the Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital

About the Project

Discovering a better diagnostic tool has long been a priority for those in the field of Lyme research. 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 and is dependent on the presence of antibodies that form against the pathogen. Drs. Pollock and Branda, in collaboration with Dr. Antonio Campos-Neto at the Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, MA recently identified a promising way to directly diagnose Lyme disease through the detection of a biomarker for the agent of infection (Borrelia burgdorferi) in urine samples from patients with the disease.

Their approach uses proven mass spectrometric methods previously applied to the discovery of novel diagnostic biomarkers of active tuberculosis (TB) and visceral leishmaniasis (VL) and has identified a promising candidate biomarker in urine samples from patients with confirmed erythema migrans (EM). This project will build on this promising preliminary finding by performing mass spectroscopy on additional urine samples collected from patients with confirmed EM, affirming the top biomarker candidates for development of antigen detection assays using methods vetted in the TB and VL biomarker work. This project will also allow the team to discover new antigens and ultimately carve a path toward the development of a novel, accessible, and highly accurate diagnostic for early Lyme disease.

Previous Honorees

Jerome Bouquet Jerome F. Bouquet, PhD

A postdoctoral fellow at University of California, San Francisco for his project: Development of a Host Biomarker Assay for the Diagnosis of Acute Lyme Disease and Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome

Lisa BlumLisa K. Blum, PhD

A postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University for her project: Sequencing of Antibody Responses to Borrelia burgdorferi Infection – Generation of Recombinant Antibodies with Diagnostic and Therapeutic Utility

Selection Process

Applications for the 2016 award will be solicited beginning October 2015. Applicants must submit an application, research proposal, and at least one supporting letter from their supervising manager or Principal Investigator.

Applications, due January 31, 2016, are peer reviewed by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation Science Committee and adjunct advisors. Winners are announced in late spring.

For more information or questions about the application process, please contact the foundation offices at or tel. 650.530.2439.

It is the policy of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation to pay no more than 5% of any grant toward overhead or indirect costs.

Who Qualifies?

  • Affiliated with an academic or research institution
  • Professional tenure at post-doctoral level through Assistant Professor or equivalent
  • Demonstrated professional and scientific leadership in biological and medical sciences
  • Exhibited scientific curiosity and an established pattern of creative thinking
  • A defined approach to improved diagnostics or therapies for Lyme disease

Evaluation Criteria

  • Potential for research to lead to a novel therapy or diagnostic for Lyme disease
  • Scientific rationale supporting the application (perhaps validated in another field)
  • Applicant’s track record for project execution
  • Support from Principal Investigator and affiliated institution
  • Timeline: Application shows sufficient potential to generate initial proof of concept within 12 – 18 months