2017 ELA Winners

Bay Area Lyme Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Emerging Leader Awards. This year, thanks to the generous contributions from The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, we presented two ELA awards totaling $350,000 in project grants to bring innovative projects to proof-of-concept.

$250,000 ELA Grant

James J. Collins, PhD
Core Faculty, Wyss Institute, Harvard University; Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science; Professor of Biological Engineering, MIT

Dr. Collins and his lab work in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance. Professor Collins’s patented technologies have been licensed by over 25 biotech, pharma and medical devices companies, and he has received numerous awards and honors, including a Rhodes Scholarship and a MacArthur “Genius” Award. Professor Collins is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. He received his AB in Physics at Holy Cross, where he was valedictorian, and his PhD in Medical Engineering at Oxford.

Project Overview
Dr. Collins’s ELA project focuses on highly sensitive, paper-based, direct detection RNA-based diagnostics for Borrelia burgdorferi and early Lyme disease. The amount of borrelial RNA in a blood sample of a patient with Lyme is likely to be present in much larger quantities than the DNA, making direct detection of the pathogen easier. His lab recently developed a platform for direct detection of RNA that combines programmable molecular sensors called RNA toehold switches with an expression system that can be freeze dried onto paper discs. Toehold switch sensors are synthetic regulators that control the translation of a gene, and these can be designed to bind and sense any RNA sequence.

$100,000 ELA Grant

Yuko Nakajima, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Brandeis University

Dr. Nakajima is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of James E. Haber at Brandeis. Prior to beginning her Borrelia burgdorferi research, her work investigated the relationship between DNA damage and spindle assembly checkpoints during cell division. She also performed postdoctoral research at Rockefeller University and served as a research assistant at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Nakajima received her BS in Biological Sciences from Purdue University and her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.

Project Overview
Dr. Nakajima’s ELA project focuses on outsmarting smart bugs by blocking immune evasion by Borrelia burgdoferi and other pathogens through gene conversion. Just like in cancer, gene conversion was recently shown to be instrumental in Borrelia burgdoferi’s ability to change its surface proteins and thus keep the immune system from manufacturing antibodies that match the currently expressed proteins. This ability to change its proteins is mediated by an unusual DNA structure called a G-quadruplex. A drug blocking G-quadruplex activity in cancer cells is currently in clinical trials. Dr. Nakajima will study the G-quadruplex in Borrelia burgdorferi and then test different small molecules to detect which may be most able to block this coping mechanism.

About ELA

The Bay Area Lyme Foundation Emerging Leader Awards (ELA) recognize up-and-coming researchers bringing new approaches and creative thinking to the field of Lyme disease. These grants support new and innovative projects and aim to attract aspiring new scientific talent to the field of Lyme. Candidate applications must include a viable proposal for a proof-of-concept to be funded, in part or in sum, by the grant award.

$250,000 ELA Grant

Our $250,000 ELA grant targets veteran scientific talent with the title of associate professor or above who have not previously worked in Lyme disease research. Applicants must be at a US academic institution or corporate equivalent and propose to apply their work in other fields to therapeutics or diagnostics in Lyme disease.

$100,000 ELA Grant

The $100,000 ELA grant is offered to researchers in academia or the private sector who are currently at the post-doctoral level through the assistant professor level, or equivalent. Applicants must have identified a defined approach to improving diagnostics or therapies for Lyme disease. Important criteria include demonstrated professional and scientific leadership in the biomedical sciences and a strong supporting scientific rationale for the project. Research efforts funded by this award are required to generate initial proof of concept within 12–18 months.

Selection Process

Applications for the 2017 award were solicited beginning October 2016. Applicants must submit an application, research proposal, and at least one supporting letter from their supervising manager or Principal Investigator.

Candidates completed the following application and sent to award@bayarealyme.org by February 15, 2017. They included a research proposal of no more than 10 pages (at least 10 pt font) using the outline below. Applications longer than 10 pages (excluding pages required for references, biosketch or CV) were not eligible for this grant.

Applications are peer reviewed by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation Science Committee and adjunct advisors. Winners are announced in late spring at our annual LymeAid® event.

For more information or questions about the application process, please contact the foundation offices at info@bayarealyme.org 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 in the U.S. or corporate 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

 

Previous Honorees

 

2016 ELA Recipients

Bay Area Lyme Foundation presents the winners of the 2016 Emerging Leader Awards. Thanks to the generous contributions from The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and The Laurel Foundation, we presented two ELA awards with each recipient receiving a $100,000 project grant to bring an innovative project to proof-of-concept.

Britton GraspergeAlexandra Cohen Emerging Leader Award

Britton J. Grasperge, PhD
Assistant Professor – Clinical Pathology, Louisiana State University

 

Chase BeiselLaure Woods Emerging Leader Award

Chase Beisel, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, NC State University

2015 ELA Recipients

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

2014 ELA Recipients

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