Foundational Work Scores Results

John Aucott, MD

BAL 10-year Anniversary Series

 

10 Years of Collaboration Bringing Hope: How Dr. John Aucott’s Relationship with Bay Area Lyme Helped Get Groundbreaking Biobanks Launched to Fuel the Research Engine of Lyme Disease Investigations

 

John Aucott, MDIn this blog, part of our 10-year anniversary blog series, we talk with John Aucott, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Director of the Lyme Disease Research Center, about his work and how his investigations are helping us understand persistent/chronic Lyme infections. A long-term collaborator and grant recipient of Bay Area Lyme Foundation, Dr. Aucott reflects on his history with our organization, the ongoing plight of Lyme disease patients, and the slow growth in government funding for investigations into the disease. He talks about the early days of identifying the need for well-characterized samples from Lyme patients and his role in helping launch biobank programs, including his own SLICE Study Biorepository and BAL’s Lyme Disease Biobank. 

Bay Area Lyme: I want to take you right back to the very beginning of your relationship with Bay Area Lyme (BAL), the founding of your SLICE study and our Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB) and talk about everything that was happening 10 years ago. People talk about the “norming, storming and forming” stages of organizations, and there was an awful lot of activity going on 10 years ago in the world of Lyme disease. And so, please share your thoughts on what was happening around that time, your part in it, and how you came into the picture with BAL and our biobank.

SLICE Studies
The Study of Lyme disease Immunology and Clinical Events (SLICE), Johns Hopkins University Lyme Disease Research Center

John Aucott: My first memory is that I flew out to California and my agenda at that time was getting people interested in research. There was very little funding for Lyme disease research, and to some extent there still isn’t a great amount of funding for Lyme disease, especially the kind of research I do, which is clinical translational research. I’m an MD, so my research involves bridging basic science to human beings to patients. So, to be very candid about it, I was interested in getting BAL interested in my work. I pitched what we were doing. We had already set up the Johns Hopkins SLICE study, the Study of Lyme disease Immunology and Clinical Events. And at that point it was one of only two large scale biobanks collecting for Lyme disease. The other one is Dr. Gary Wormser’s, who still has a biobank in Valhalla, New York.

So, I was pitching the idea of a Lyme disease biobank to BAL, and this was a whole new concept. A biobank is a hard concept to sell initially because people don’t understand that setting up a biobank is like being Levi Strauss: It’s selling the Levis and the picks, and the shovels—not selling them the actual gold in your pocket. And it’s a hard pitch because people don’t understand that somebody has to supply the foundational work so that other people can mine for the gold. But BAL caught on to the idea that the biobank that we had at Hopkins was a crucial resource that would enable collaboration with other researchers to advance the scientific understanding of disease mechanisms and potentially identify and validate biomarkers for improving diagnostics and treatments.

LymeAid 2013
LymeAid 2014 Scientific Panel (from left): Wendy Adams, John Aucott, MD, Carin Rollins, and Bill Robinson, MD, PhD

Bay Area Lyme bought into the importance of this idea. The first thing that happened was you asked me to be on the BAL Scientific Advisory Board soon thereafter. BAL expressed support for the SLICE study’s biobank at Hopkins and you actually gave us one of our first grants to help support our biobank work. So, that was the first thing that happened. We applied for a grant, and we got a grant from BAL to help us because we had not yet gotten federal funding for it. So, that was one of the first grants to support it, and now in 2023 we are finally receiving our first NIH funding.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary with a Convergence of Scientists, Clinicians, Patients and Celebrity Talent

LymeAid 2023

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Bay Area Lyme Foundation Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary with a Convergence of Scientists, Clinicians, Patients, and Celebrity Talent

BAL honors the 2023 Younger Family Emerging Leader Award Winner, announces iHeartRadio partnership and acknowledges the perseverance of patients with persistent Lyme disease

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., June 13, 2023—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, celebrated its 10th anniversary in May at LymeAid ®, its preeminent annual fundraising event, and announced Andriy Batchinsky, MD, as the winner of a $150,000 Younger Family Emerging Leader Award. A supportive audience of scientists, clinicians, patients, and philanthropists celebrated progress and commitment to ongoing research into tick-borne diseases, and iHeartRadio announced a partnership in honor of beloved DJ and radio host Jeffrey Vandergrift (“JV”), who passed away with Lyme disease earlier this year. LymeAid raised $683,000 of which 100 percent goes directly to fund scientific research, education, and prevention programs for Lyme disease, a potentially disabling infection that impacts an estimated half a million Americans each year.

Emmy-award winning comedian Dana Carvey, Master of Ceremonies for the event, was joined by The Bacon Brothers and local San Francisco band Pop Rocks, who were the musical guests for this evening of laughter, dining, and dancing to support cutting-edge discoveries and scientific breakthroughs. The fund-a-need for this event was Lyme Disease Biobank, a Bay Area Lyme Foundation program initiated in 2014 to collect and distribute blood, urine, and tissue samples for investigators working on developing diagnostics and treatment for tick-borne diseases.

“This is an amazing time for infectious disease research, offering great hope for patients. While we have made strides, our work is not done. We need to figure out the underlying cause of persistent Lyme disease and find a solution,” said keynote speaker Bill Robinson, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Immunology and Rheumatology at Stanford University, who shared ongoing research exploring ways to weaponize antibodies against persistent Lyme disease.

On the Front Lines of Lyme Treatment: A Conversation with Pioneer Kenneth Liegner, MD

Kenneth Liegner, MD

BAL Spotlights Series

 

In this conversation between Ticktective™ host Dana Parish and pioneering physician Kenneth Liegner, MD, the discussion focuses on how Dr. Liegner, frustrated and perplexed by the lack of options for persistent/chronic Lyme, came to prescribe disulfiram—a drug intended to treat alcoholics—as an off-label therapeutic for his Lyme patients. He recounts what happened next, and reflects on the impact of his bold experiment, plus they touch on how a Covid infection may impact Lyme patients, causing a resurgence of latent symptoms. They also explore the history of tick-borne diseases and the lack of recognition among clinicians, the government, and insurance companies for these insidious infections that cause chronic suffering for many. Note: This transcribed podcast has been edited for clarity.

Dana Parish: Welcome to the Ticktective Podcast, a program of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, where our mission is to make Lyme disease easy to diagnose, and simple to cure. I’m your guest host today, Dana Parish. I’m the co-author of the book Chronic, and I’m on the advisory board of Bay Area Lyme Foundation. This program offers insightful interviews with clinicians, scientists, patients, and other interesting people. We’re a non-profit foundation based in Silicon Valley, and thanks to a generous grant that covers a hundred percent of our overhead, all of your donations go directly to our research and our prevention programs. For more information about Lyme disease, please visit us at bayarealyme.org.

In the Crucible of Chronic Lyme Disease, Collected Writings and Associated MaterialsDana Parish: I’m so thrilled to be guest hosting Ticktective for you today on behalf of Bay Area Lyme Foundation. I’m here with a dear friend and a brilliant Lyme physician, internist, author, Dr. Kenneth Liegner. Dr. Kenneth Liegner is a board-certified internist with additional training in pathology and critical care medicine, practicing in Pawling, New York. He’s the author of an extraordinary documentarian history of Lyme called In the Crucible of Chronic Lyme Disease, Collected Writings and Associated Materials. We’ll talk about that more later. Dr. Liegner is also the first to apply disulfiram in the treatment of Lyme, and he published his experience in the peer-reviewed journal Antibiotics. Thank you so much for being here with me today, Dr. Liegner.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Celebrates Department of Defense CDMRP Tick-borne Disease Awardees

CDMRP

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Celebrates Department of Defense CDMRP Tick-borne Disease Awardees

Projects of three awardees to be enabled by Lyme Disease Biobank samples

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., March 23, 2023—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, announces that two projects it has previously funded have now received Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Tick-Borne Disease awards. Three of the six recently announced CDMRP awardees will be using biological samples from Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s Lyme Disease Biobank to enable their research into diagnostics and therapeutics for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease—which infects half a million people each year. 

“Government awards like CDMRP help propel much needed research on tick-borne illnesses forward, and, with three diagnostics projects using Biobank samples, we are honored to play a part in making this important research possible,” said Liz Horn, PhD, MBI, Principal Investigator, Lyme Disease Biobank, which provides researchers with access to reliable biological samples to enable research toward better diagnostics and treatments for these complex diseases. “If researchers don’t have access to well-characterized blood samples with robust testing and medical information, they can’t build the necessary research programs to develop better diagnostics, which are urgently needed for these complex diseases,” added Dr. Horn.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Offers $150,000 Grant for Emerging Leaders in Lyme Disease Research

2021 Emerging Leader Awards

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Bay Area Lyme Foundation Offers $150,000 Grant for Emerging Leaders in Lyme Disease Research

Annual award seeks to attract innovative researchers with a new approach to overcome the challenges of tick-borne diseases

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., October 19, 2022—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, is announcing a call for entries for their 2023 Emerging Leader Awards (ELA), which aim to recognize both established and up-and-coming researchers bringing new approaches and creative thinking to the field of Lyme disease. This year, the Foundation has increased the ELA award to $150,000 for researchers in academia or the private sector who are at the post-doctoral level through associate professor level. 

While applicants must have a defined approach to improving diagnostics and therapeutics for Lyme disease, the grants are open to those who have previously worked in Lyme disease research as well as researchers from other therapeutic areas. Applications will be accepted through February 15, 2023 at 11:59pm, Pacific Time. The full criteria and application for this award can be found at https://www.bayarealyme.org/our-research/emerging-leader-award/. 

“Despite modest increases in government funding, there is still a significant need for ‘out of the box’ ideas pulled from proven scientific approaches in other therapeutic areas,” said Wendy Adams, research grant director Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “We fund innovative scientifically-sound research and are seeking driven, rigorous scientists who can help make progress towards developing accurate diagnostic tests and effective therapeutics for various stages of the disease.”

The Emerging Leader Award is designed to support research that will increase the scope of investigation in Lyme disease and help develop better diagnostics and treatments. Bay Area Lyme Foundation encourages researchers to explore novel, scientifically well-founded concepts with potential utility toward that goal. Many ELA recipients have subsequently received grants from other groups including the NIH, as well as continued support from Bay Area Lyme Foundation. The efforts funded by this award are required to generate initial proof of concept within 12-24 months and requires applicants to demonstrate professional and scientific leadership in the biomedical sciences and a strong supporting scientific rationale. 

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

2021 Emerging Leader Awards

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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.”

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.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Funds $8M in Tick-borne Disease Research During the Pandemic

Bay Area Lyme Foundation Funds $8M in Tick-borne Disease Research During the Pandemic

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Bay Area Lyme Foundation Funds $8M in Tick-borne Disease Research During the Pandemic

Foundation Embraces National Focus on Infectious Diseases as Education Tool

PORTOLA VALLEY, CA, January 25, 2021—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, today announced that the organization has raised more than $8 million since the beginning of the pandemic of which 100% will be used directly for research and education programs focused on achieving its mission of making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure. In 2022, Bay Area Lyme will mark its 10th anniversary, and throughout this year will be reflecting on a decade of achievements by the foundation and the Lyme community while acknowledging the significant challenges that still lie ahead. 

“Although the pandemic presented us with many extraordinary hurdles, it also helped people understand the complicated aspects of infectious diseases—including the importance of accurate diagnostics, the role of antibodies, and the power of effective treatments—all of which are—and continue to be—huge factors in our fight against Lyme and tick-borne diseases,” said Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “The similarities between Lyme and COVID-19 clearly show the critical nature of scientific pursuit, progress and education. The foundation demonstrates consistent, measurable progress unlocking the mysteries of tick-borne diseases, which remain one of the most important health crises of our time.”

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

ELA winner Michael Rout

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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.