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Media Contact:
Tara DiMilia, 908-947-0500, tara.dimilia@TMstrat.com

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Selects National Winners of the 2021 Emerging Leader Awards to Advance Research for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease

Brandon Jutras, PhD of Virginia Tech, Nitya Ramadoss, PhD of Stanford University and Michael P. Rout, PhD of The Rockefeller University are this year’s recipients

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., July 6th, 2021—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., announces the recipients of the 2021 Emerging Leader Awards (ELA), which are designed to support promising scientists who represent the future of Lyme disease research leadership. Michael P. Rout, PhD of The Rockefeller University will receive $250,000 for his work with nanobodies to develop a sensitive point-of-care diagnostic. Brandon Jutras, PhD of Virginia Tech and Nitya Ramadoss, PhD of Stanford University will each receive $100,000 toward the development of a novel direct-detection diagnostic approach for Lyme disease and a novel therapeutic based on B-cell mapping, respectively. Lyme disease is a potentially disabling infection diagnosed in nearly half a million Americans each year.

“As there is not a diagnosis or treatment that works for all patients, there is a critical need to develop direct-detection diagnostics as well as treatments that can prevent the development of persistent Lyme disease, and we are excited to support these novel approaches that have shown success in other areas,” said Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation.

Two of the award winners will utilize biological samples from the Lyme Disease Biobank, a program of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, to collect well-characterized human tissue, blood and urine specimens to accelerate research of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

Here is an overview of the research projects of the Emerging Leader Award recipients:

  • Focused on the mechanisms underlying immune responses in Lyme disease, Dr. Ramadoss will develop monoclonal antibody therapeutics capable of clearing Borrelia burgdorferi infections and preventing post-treatment Lyme disease, also known as persistent Lyme disease.
  • Based on past research in Lyme disease pathogenesis, Dr. Jutras is working to develop a novel diagnostic that can detect peptidoglycan, a component that makes up the cell wall of bacteria, as a biomarker for acute Lyme disease.
  • Dr. Rout is investigating nanobodies, a class of small antibody-like molecules, for potential use in a rapid, sensitive, direct detection diagnostics, and with potential future applications in treatment.

“This year’s applicants offered some of the most innovative ideas for overcoming the challenges of Lyme disease, and present great inspiration across all areas of tick-borne disease,” added Wendy Adams, research grant director, Bay Area Lyme. “Developing sensitive diagnostics and effective therapeutics should be the highest priority in Lyme disease research. We look forward to the outcomes of this promising research, as well as the other research that we expect these projects to inspire.”

Previous Emerging Leader Award recipients have come from institutions including Brandeis University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Louisiana State University, North Carolina State University, Stanford University School of Medicine, Texas A&M, Tulane University and University of California San Francisco. Most of these projects were in the early stages of research, and the Emerging Leader Award enabled scientists to demonstrate proof-of-concept in order to secure subsequent government funding.  Some findings have been accepted for presentation at well-respected scientific forums and are the subject of peer reviewed papers.

This year the Emerging Leader Awards are made possible through the generosity of a coalition of three family foundations who believe in the creative nature of bringing researchers from other disciplines into the field of Lyme disease.

Since 2014, these awards have been given annually to promising scientists who have identified a defined approach to improved diagnostics or therapeutics for Lyme disease. Researchers interested in applying for the 2022 Emerging Leader Award or learning about the other grants that Bay Area Lyme Foundation offers throughout the year should click here.

Each researcher will share more details in the coming months about their project on the Bay Area Lyme Ticktective™ podcast.

About Lyme Disease
The most common vector-borne infectious disease in the country, Lyme disease is a potentially disabling 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 effectively treated, but it is commonly misdiagnosed due to lack of awareness and unreliable diagnostic tests. There are more than 400,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, according to statistics released in 2018 by the CDC. As a result of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, more than one million Americans may be suffering from the impact of its debilitating long-term symptoms and complications, according to Bay Area Lyme Foundation estimates.

About Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, is the leading public not-for-profit sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the U.S. A 501c3 non-profit organization based in Silicon Valley. Bay Area Lyme 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 are common knowledge. A pivotal donation from The LaureL STEM Fund covers all overhead costs and allows for 100% of donor contributions to Bay Area Lyme Foundation to go directly to research and prevention programs. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit www.bayarealyme.org or call us at 650-530-2439.

About Lyme Disease Biobank
The Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB), a program of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, is working to accelerate research of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. With a collection of biological samples from more than 950 participants, including serum, blood, urine and tissue, LDB provides much-needed samples to researchers working to better understand tick-borne diseases and to develop improved tests and therapeutics. Blood and urine samples are collected from the Northeast and Upper Midwest areas of the U.S., as well as Northern and Southern California, and tissue samples are collected throughout the U.S.

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Media contact:
Tara DiMilia
Phone: 908-369-7168
Tara.DiMilia@tmstrat.com

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