Lyme Research Alliance Awards $500,000 in Grants

With Lyme disease the fastest growing vector-borne illness in the nation, the urgency of advancing research is greater than ever before. Lyme Research Alliance is awarding half a million dollars to fund six promising studies to find a reliable diagnostic test and effective treatment options for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

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Harriet Kotsoris, MD, LRA's Chief Scientific Officer

Through better understanding of the multifaceted, natural history of tick-borne diseases, significant progress can be made in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Stamford, CT (PRWEB) May 21, 2013

The Lyme Research Alliance (LRA), one of the nation’s leading private funders of Lyme disease research, today announced it will award six grants worth $500,000 to researchers focused on the epidemiology of, and treatment and cure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

The six grants were awarded to: Valeria C. Culotta, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; Armin Alaedini, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York; Ying Zhang, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; Kim Lewis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Director, Antimicrobial Discovery Center, Northeastern University, Boston, MA; Alla Landa, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, and Dr. Leticia Gutierrez, DVM, Ph.D. candidate, Biology Department, University of Missouri, St. Louis.

LRA’s scientific agenda encompasses two areas critical to all those affected by Lyme disease: the discovery of an accurate and accessible diagnostic test, and the development of effective treatments for long-term or “chronic” Lyme disease. “Through better understanding of the multifaceted, natural history of tick-borne diseases, significant progress can be made in prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” said Harriet Kotsoris, MD, LRA’s Chief Scientific Officer. The grants released this week reflect LRA’s scientific agenda.

The Grant Review Committee members of LRA’s Scientific Advisory Board followed a rigorous process using guidelines and standards that the National Institutes of Health applies to its own grant application review process. The resulting 2013-2014 grant portfolio represents projects judged to have exceptional prospects of delivering measurable advances.

LRA supports innovative efforts in the most promising areas of tick-borne disease research. Dr. Culotta’s work, being conducted in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, for instance, focuses on her team’s recent discovery that the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), unlike most other bacteria, can exist despite the absence of iron in its environment. Instead of iron, Bb utilizes manganese to carry out much of its metabolism. This phenomenon might explain how Bb evades the host’s immune system, which acts against foreign invaders by starving them of iron.

Dr. Culotta hopes to take advantage of this oddity and develop novel Lyme treatments, in essence, by poisoning Bb with iron. “The only therapies for Lyme Disease right now are antibiotics like penicillin, which are effective if the disease is detected early enough,” Dr. Culotta said in a statement. “We’d like to find targets inside pathogenic (disease-causing) cells that could thwart their growth,” she said. “The best targets are those that pathogens have, but people do not, thereby killing the pathogens, but not the human host.”

In announcing the new grants, Dr. Kotsoris said, “LRA is proud to support the advanced research being conducted by some of the best and the brightest men and women in the field today. Through their work, we believe there will be scientific breakthroughs in prevention strategies, diagnosis, treatment, leading to a cure for Lyme.”

ABOUT LYME RESEARCH ALLIANCE:

Founded in 1998, Lyme Research Alliance, formerly Time for Lyme, has forged significant partnerships with the academic community to support scientific research that can ultimately alleviate the threat of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Most notably, the organization partnered with the Lyme Disease Association to fund and create the first research center for the study of persistent Lyme at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City in 2007, and for the past decade the LRA has funded innovative research at universities across the United States, from SUNY Stony Brook to Johns Hopkins, Washington University and Texas A&M, just to name a few. To date, LRA has raised more than $6 million to combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
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Lyme Research Alliance, formerly Time for Lyme, is a Connecticut-based, national non-profit that funds cutting-edge research into Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. For more information, go to http://www.lymeresearchalliance.org.


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