Patient Samples Fuel Development of Innovative Test to Diagnose Early Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease Biobank

BAL Leading the Way Series

 

Lyme Disease Biobank

 

A new type of Lyme disease test aimed at early-stage infection detection is hitting doctors’ offices, and we all should thank Lyme patients for making this happen. This test named T-Detect Lyme, was recently unveiled by Adaptive Biotechnologies, and is an advanced indirect-detection blood test that allows for detection of an acute Lyme infection earlier than antibody response tests.

Adaptive Biotechnologies using Lyme Disease Biobank samples
Courtesy Adaptive Biotechnologies

Our Lyme Disease Biobank (LBD) and Dr. John Aucott’s SLICE Lab at Johns Hopkins University provided the Lyme patient blood samples for Adaptive’s new T-Detect Lyme test development. The LBD, a program of Bay Area Lyme, was created in 2014 and began collecting patient samples in 2015 specifically to drive this form of diagnostic innovation. By engaging Lyme patients and providing well-characterized samples to approved researchers and partnering with innovative organizations like Adaptive, the LDB research engine is now delivering long-planned-for results.

“This breakthrough from Adaptive validates the power of patient-driven research. Without the participation of patients who gave blood to our Lyme Disease Biobank, this impactful new test could not have been developed,” commented Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “We wish to thank all the patients who came forward to participate in this important program and to encourage others to give samples.”

Fueling the Research Engine

Lyme Disease Biobank

BAL Leading the Way Series

 

How a chance meeting and the harnessing of big data led to a research initiative that’s finding answers in Lyme and tick-borne disease

Many different groups comprise the Lyme disease community including patients, their families, healthcare providers, researchers and nonprofit organizations. These nonprofit organizations and foundations may differ in size, structure, fiscal basis, focus and approach, but in one important aspect they are united: the search for answers.

This search for answers in the realm of Lyme and tick-borne diseases has served as a unifying driver, even when dissent and controversy has sometimes fragmented the Lyme community.  And despite what seems to be a constant uphill battle for recognition and legitimacy of Lyme and tick-borne infections, many believe that we’re on the brink of major breakthroughs to help patients and doctors unlock the medical mysteries that make these infectious diseases so confounding. Two people cautiously optimistic about where we are in the search for answers about Lyme are Liz Horn, PhD, MBI, Principal Investigator, Lyme Disease Biobank, and Lorraine Johnson, JD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, LymeDisease.org and Principal Investigator MyLymeData.

The Future of Lyme Diagnostics: How Wearable Technology May Lead to Fast, Accurate and Reliable Lyme Disease Detection

Mike Snyder PhD Wearables Project

BAL Leading the Way Series

 

Remember when we used to watch Captain Kirk talk into his chirping communicator and order Scotty to beam him up? And what about that handy medical scanner the size of a pack of cards that Dr. McCoy waved around to assess and diagnose his patients in the starship’s sick bay? We may now all have smartphones to stay in constant touch with each other, but outside of a state-of-the-art hospital with multi-million-dollar scanners and MRI machines, we are still some years away from the Star Fleet’s instantaneous medical technology, right? 

Wrong.

Advances in our ability to gather real-time information on the human body are poised to revolutionize not just how we diagnose diseases, but make dramatic, life-altering, positive impacts on the critical timeline for diagnosis and treatment by detecting a disease event before symptoms occur. And Bay Area Lyme is leading the way by investing in research that will further illuminate our understanding of how—in real time—a Lyme infection impacts the human body through the data collected by wearable technologies.

Calling All Scientists: Bay Area Lyme Foundation Now Accepting Applications for 2022 Emerging Leader Award

ELA winner Michael Rout

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Calling All Scientists: Bay Area Lyme Foundation Now Accepting Applications for 2022 Emerging Leader Award 

Grant aims to inspire new research for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease

PORTOLA VALLEY, California, December 6, 2021—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, is announcing a call for entries for their 2022 Emerging Leader Awards (ELA), which recognize U.S. researchers from academia or the private sector who bring new approaches to the field of Lyme disease and embody the future of Lyme disease research leadership. At least two grants in the amount $100,000 each will be awarded. Proposals must have a defined scientific approach and rationale that can advance diagnostics or treatments for Lyme disease, and applicants are encouraged to bring innovative learnings from other therapeutic areas to their research projects. Applications will be accepted through March 15, 2022, at midnight Pacific Time. The full criteria and application for this grant award can be found here.

“The world is seeing firsthand the damage that infections can cause—both in acute and chronic forms. Just has COVID has encouraged collaboration, we hope that existing Lyme scientists as well as scientists from other disease areas will apply for this grant, offering new hypotheses and technologies to diagnose and treat Lyme and other tick-borne disease,” said Wendy Adams, research grant director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. 

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

Lyme Disease Biobank

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

2021 Emerging Leader Awards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

2021 Emerging Leader Awards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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.