How Do You Build a Biobank to Solve the Problem of Lyme Disease? Literally – One Tick Bite at a Time

Lyme Disease Biobank

Written by: Jo Ellis, Bay Area Lyme Volunteer and Supporter

Science is all about asking questions and finding answers. It attracts the curious, the driven, the questioners and fact seekers—the people who won’t accept the status quo and who are always pushing to learn more. If we keep asking science the right questions, we’re bound to get to the right answers eventually. It’s simple, right?

Unfortunately, not. As with everything about Lyme disease the answers to the questions are not so simple. Lyme is a complicated, nuanced disease with many challenging attributes, so much so that even the most experienced clinicians and medical researchers struggle to understand the many ways the infection impacts the human body. So, if you’re going to try and solve the puzzle of Lyme disease, where is the best place to start? How do you get all the pieces in place to move the needle to solve the complexity of this disease?

Enter Bay Area Lyme Foundation and Principal Investigator, Liz Horn PhD, MBI. When they were planning this project, they asked research scientists in the field of Lyme disease what were their big obstacles to finding out more about Lyme? What did scientists need so that they could start chipping away at the conundrum of this horrible disease?

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

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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.

Nanotrap® Urine Test for Lyme Borreliosis

– Wendy Adams, Research Grant Director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation

 

Bay Area Lyme has a goal to leverage the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of Silicon Valley in order to catalyze novel projects around the country. Our belief is that the application of cutting-edge technologies will have a dramatic impact on making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure. We collaborate with world-class scientists focused on Lyme projects which leverage knowledge from other fields of medicine and research. We also prioritize engagement with the investment and biotech communities so that breakthroughs in the laboratory can be translated more quickly to patients. Since our inception, our scientific research funding priorities have been focused on supporting diagnostic and therapeutic projects.

It is impossible to cure Lyme disease in every case without understanding how to diagnose it accurately. There are many reasons for this disease being difficult to identify—ticks are tiny, the EM skin rash is often misdiagnosed and symptoms overlap with other acute diseases like influenza. Most importantly, the widely used two tier diagnostic testing required for Lyme disease is currently the ELISA and Western Blot, which only detects the immune response (indirect detection) and not the pathogen itself. Because it can take at least 2-4 weeks for the body to generate antibodies, these tests have been shown to miss up to 70% of acute Lyme cases. These tests also do not detect other related Borrelia species, such as Borrelia miyamotoi), and cannot determine when the infection is eradicated.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Announces Call for Entries for the 2021 Emerging Leader Awards

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

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Announces Call for Entries for the 2021 Emerging Leader Awards

Grant aims to inspire new research toward overcoming the challenges of Lyme disease

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., November 17, 2020—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, is announcing a call for entries for their 2021 Emerging Leader Awards (ELA), which are designed to encourage scientists who embody the future of Lyme disease research leadership in the US. This year, two grants, $250,000, and $100,000 will be awarded. Recipients will be researchers from academia or the private sector in the US. who have not necessarily conducted previous research in tick-borne diseases. All applicants are encouraged to bring learnings from other therapeutic areas to their research projects. Their proposal must have a defined scientific approach and rationale that can advance diagnostics or treatments for Lyme disease. Applications will be accepted through February 15, 2021, at midnight pacific. The full criteria and application for this award can be found here.

“This year has given us all the opportunity to consider the great importance of medical research and the devastation that can arise when a pathogen is not well-understood by the medical and scientific community,” said Wendy Adams, research grant director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “We clearly need novel approaches to make Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, and we hope these awards offer the support that innovative researchers require.”

Inadequacy in the medical field to accurately diagnose a Lyme rash

– Wendy Adams, Research Grant Director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation

Erythema migrans (EM) is the hallmark sign of infection with B. burgdorferi. An EM is defined as an expanding annular (round) lesion or rash of at least 10cm (2.5in). Most rashes occur 3–30 days after infection, however there are case reports that show EMs can appear sooner than three days post infection.

The term “Bulls-eye” rash is often used synonymously with EM. But an EM is not required to have central clearing or a target appearance. The rash can take many forms, and may have a raised bump in the middle, can be itchy or warm, and can have a bluish cast like a bruise. It can be round or even oval. Only 20% of Lyme disease with an EM have the bulls-eye presentation. That means that only 1 in 6 total Lyme cases will have a rash with a target appearance.

The rash also may not be present at all. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 70-80% of patients may exhibit the erythema migrans, this number can vary by study. For example, a 2010 study showed that in the state of Maine only 43% of Lyme patients exhibited this rash when infected with Lyme.

New Therapeutics for Infectious Diseases

– Wendy Adams, Research Grant Director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation

This pandemic has brought many different modalities in diagnostics, drug development and vaccines to the popular press. In the Tick-borne Disease (TBD) community, we have seen the issues that arise when the timely diagnosis and treatment of infectious disease are hampered by insensitive diagnostics and ineffective treatments.

It bears repeating however, that drugs that fight the infection in question (antibiotics, antiparasitics, or antivirals) are a large part of any eventual solution to an outbreak, especially in advance of a vaccine (see HIV). Antimicrobial therapeutics help keep the pathogen from replicating uncontrolled, allowing the complicated immune system processes to catch up to it, control it and then eradicate it.

One specific treatment modality is being widely discussed: monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). These are the drugs upon which the whole biotech industry and companies like Genentech, Biogen and Amgen were literally built. Six out of the top 10 drugs by sales are mAbs, mostly for oncology and autoimmune disease indications. However, mAbs have not been commonly used for infectious disease (with one major exception we’ll talk about later).

What are monoclonal antibodies? How do they work?

Antibodies are proteins made by the mammalian immune system. They are a workhorse of the acquired immune response and fight specific antigens, which can be anything from an invading pathogen to an aberrant cell or cytokine that needs destruction. Monoclonal antibodies as a drug class are also very specific and only bind to one antigen. They can bind to a single receptor on the outside of a cell, so that cell can’t receive or send out a message. Or the cell can be tagged so the immune system recognizes the cell as foreign and can destroy it. Binding only one target is important to reduce side effects caused by binding to multiple targets.

New Study Shows Less Than One-Third of Lyme Disease Test Results are Accurate for Patients with Lyme Rash

Lyme Disease Biobank

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

New Study Shows Less Than One-Third of Lyme Disease Test Results are Accurate for Patients with Lyme Rash

Journal of Clinical Microbiology Publishes Lyme Disease Biobank Data Describing Samples Available for Research on Tick-Borne Infections

Portola Valley, Calif., February 26, 2020—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., announces results published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology, that point to limitations of currently available diagnostic tests for early-stage Lyme disease and highlight the need for more research toward improved diagnostics and treatments. Among the findings, the Centers for Disease Control’s Standard Two-tier Testing Algorithm (STTTA) for Lyme disease failed to accurately diagnose 71% of blood samples from individuals presenting with a Lyme rash, also known as an erythema migrans, greater than 5 cm in endemic areas. These samples are part of the Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB), which was founded to catalyze new research in the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. Samples are available for research use through an application process to scientists who already work in tick-borne infections, as well as those new to the field.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Highlights 2019 Progress toward Diagnosing, Treating and Preventing Lyme Disease

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

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Highlights 2019 Progress toward Diagnosing, Treating and Preventing Lyme Disease

Bay Area Lyme Foundation has now funded more than 100 research projects at 38 institutions around the country since its inception in 2012

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., December 13, 2019—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., today announced an exceptional year in research, including the first published studies using samples from the Lyme Disease Biobank and advances in research of disulfiram for treating individuals suffering from chronic Lyme disease and chronic babesiosis, an approach that Bay Area Lyme Foundation was the first to support.

“2019 was met with tremendous forward momentum for Lyme disease research as some of the early research we supported began to show significant clinical impact,” said Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “The Foundation continues to demonstrate progress against tick-borne diseases, one of the most important health crises of our time.”

Journal of Clinical Microbiology Publishes First Study Using Samples from the Lyme Disease Biobank

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

Journal of Clinical Microbiology Publishes First Study Using Samples from the Lyme Disease Biobank

More Than 40 Research Projects Have Now Used Samples from Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s Lyme Disease Biobank

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., Oct. 15, 2019 /PRNewswire/—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., today announced that a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology reports a potential new diagnostic, mChip-Ld, which can be performed in 15 minutes in a physician’s office, offers efficacy improvement over the current gold standard diagnostic, the two-tier test, and may be able to identify a patient’s Lyme disease stage. The research study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was made possible, in part, by blood samples provided by Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB). LDB is a program of Bay Area Lyme Foundation (BAL), and is supported by donations from multiple sources including the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation.

“Our research toward developing rapid diagnostic assays for Lyme disease is impossible to carry out without having access to laboratory confirmed physician-characterized blood samples,” said study author Maria Gomes-Solecki, DVM, associate professor at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “In the past, a limited set of well-characterized Lyme disease samples could be obtained from the CDC. The BAL Lyme Disease Biobank provides another much-needed option in that regard.”

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Tick Testing Program Adds Bartonella Pathogen Assay

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

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Tick Testing Program Adds Bartonella Pathogen Assay

Nationwide Free Tick Testing Initiative Will Inform Citizen-Science Studies to Better Understand the Spread of Ticks Carrying Diseases Throughout U.S.

Silicon Valley, CA, July 11, 2019 — Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., today announced the relaunch of its nationwide free tick testing program, which will include an assay for Bartonella, a disease-causing pathogen carried by ticks. Based on the success of the Free Tick Testing Citizen Science program, Bay Area Lyme Foundation has significantly increased funding for the 2019 nationwide collection effort, adding an automated submission process and increased research support. Researchers anticipate this citizen- science program will enable the organization to unearth further discoveries.

Results of the first citizen-scientist study were published in the peer-review journals PLOS ONE in 2018, and International Journal of Health Geographics in 2019. The study, which evaluated the prevalence of disease-carrying ticks throughout the United States, and included a massive sample of more than 16,000 ticks collected from 49 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, led to the discovery of ticks capable of carrying Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in 83 counties, in 24 states, where these ticks had not been previously recorded. The program received a six-fold increase in tick submissions over initial estimates, representing unprecedented national coordination of a ‘citizen science’ effort and diagnostic investigation.