FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Selects National Winners of the 2022 Emerging Leader Awards Aimed at Making Lyme Disease Easy to Diagnose and Simple to Cure

Winners Nichole Pedowitz PhD, of Stanford University and Peter Gwynne PhD, of Tufts University will focus on developing novel diagnostic tests that can identify patients with Lyme disease

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., August 9, 2022—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, announces the recipients of the 2022 Emerging Leader Awards (ELA), which are designed to support promising scientists who are advancing development of accurate and effective diagnostic tests. Both awardees this year are focused on diagnostics, which is particularly important as the current gold standard diagnostic test has been shown to be insensitive in up to 60% of early-stage disease. 

This year’s winners are Nichole Pedowitz, PhD, of Stanford University, who will receive $100,000 for her work to develop a new rapid diagnostic to directly test for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease and Peter Gwynne, PhD, of Tufts University, who will receive $100,000 to further identify antibodies which may be markers of persistent Lyme disease infection.

“The lack of a reliable test for Lyme disease makes it not only impossible to ensure that patients receive prompt, appropriate care but also challenging for scientists and clinicians to evaluate emerging treatments,” said Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “Our hope is that Drs. Pedowitz and Gwynne will make strides toward the development of diagnostic tests that will be effective in identifying Lyme patients at various stages of the disease.”

Both of the award winners will utilize biological samples from the Lyme Disease Biobank, a program of Bay Area Lyme Foundation lead by principal investigator Liz Horn, PhD, MBI, to collect well-characterized human tissue, blood, and urine specimens to accelerate research for Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. 

Here is an overview of the research projects to be conducted by the Emerging Leader Award recipients: 

  • Aiming to develop a device prototype that can be used to diagnose Lyme at the point-of-care, Dr. Pedowitz is focused on using a peptide conjugated biosensor for direct detection of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. She plans to identify selective peptide ligands for infectious Borrelia proteases and will then work to demonstrate that peptide-conjugated biosensors can detect the bacteria. 
  • Building on his previous research that has identified three antiphospholipid antibodies as potential markers of acute Lyme disease infection, Dr. Gywnne is expanding the antibody target panel to identify additional groups of antibodies that can be leveraged as diagnostic markers signaling persistent disease. 

“Our science committee was pleased by the quality of the applications we received this year. Developing sensitive and specific diagnostics for acute and persistent Lyme disease should be the highest priority in Lyme disease research. We look forward to the results of this promising research from Drs. Pedowitz and Gywnne,” said Wendy Adams, research grant director, Bay Area Lyme. With nearly half a million people  diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, and approximately two million people currently living with persistent Lyme disease, we need to transform the trajectory of this disease and finding accurate diagnostic tests are key to this mission.”

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, University of California San Francisco, Rockefeller University, Stanford University, and Virginia Tech. 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 additional government funding. Many findings have been accepted for presentation at well-respected scientific forums or are detailed in peer-reviewed papers. 

This year, the Emerging Leader Awards are made possible through the generosity of the Fairbairn and the Younger family foundations who share BAL’s mission of bringing scientists and innovation 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. Scientists or clinicians interested in applying for the 2023 Emerging Leader Award or learning about the other funding opportunities 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 nearly 500,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, according to the latest CDC statistics. As a result of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, more than two 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 US. A 501c3 charity 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. Pivotal contributions, including a $5M sustaining grant from LaureL STEM Fund to underwrite operational expenses, and multi-year grants from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and Project Lyme have been instrumental in providing support to the organization and its biobank and research 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 1,000 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 US, as well as Northern and Southern California, and tissue samples are collected throughout the US.

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