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Six Investigators Awarded Lyme Research Alliance Grants

Stamford, CT (PRWEB) May 23, 2013

Six innovative research projects have been awarded grants worth half a million dollars by Lyme Research Alliance, the nation's largest private nonprofit funder of Lyme disease medical research at major academic institutions. The studies focus on the epidemiology of, and treatment and cure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. 

“LRA is proud to support the innovative research being conducted by some of the best and the brightest men and women in the field today,” said Harriet Kotsoris, MD, LRA’s Chief Scientific Officer. “Through their work, we believe there will be scientific breakthroughs in prevention strategies, diagnosis, and treatment, leading ultimately to a cure for Lyme.”

The six researchers were selected following a rigorous process using guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Each proposal was evaluated by Grant Review Committee members of LRA’s Scientific Advisory Board and met the same scientific standards that the NIH applies to its own research grant review process. The resulting 2013-2014 grant awards represent projects judged to have exceptional prospects of delivering measurable advances.

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. The six grants released this week reflect LRA’s scientific agenda.

Valeria Culotta, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health has been awarded a grant to study the role of manganese and iron in the cellular workings of the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). Dr. Culotta’s research group, working in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, recently discovered that Bb can exist in the absence of iron, crucial to the survival of other bacteria. That phenomenon explains how Bb may evade the immune system, which often acts against foreign invaders by starving them of iron. “The discovery that iron uptake by Bb inhibits its growth and survival raises many possibilities and avenues to be studied for alternative treatment options,” said Dr. Kotsoris.  

  • An LRA grant has been awarded to Armin Alaedini, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, New York. Individuals who experience chronic Lyme disease, have specific antibodies to parts of the Bb surface protein, VIsE.  Dr. Alaedini and his team will study whether the symptoms of post-Lyme disease syndrome may be the result of an inflammatory response, as the immune system works to produce a wider variety of VIsE antibodies, not seen in healthy controls or successfully treated Lyme disease patients. 
  • Also receiving a grant is Ying Zhang, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.  The drug Pyrazinamide (PZA) in combination with other drugs, is used to kill drug-resistant strains of latent tuberculosis bacteria. Dr. Zhang will assess the activity of PZA against “persisters,” Borrelia that become tolerant to antibiotics yet later rebound to start a new wave of infection. He will then test compounds singly, and in combination with the PZA, to find an optimal treatment regimen for patients with chronic Lyme disease. 
  • LRA has also awarded a grant to Kim Lewis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Director, Antimicrobial Discovery Center, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Lewis, in collaboration with Brian Fallon, MD, MPH, Director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University, will focus on persisters and introduce a new, rapid method for determining antibiotic sensitivity. A particular variant of persisters will be studied to better understand chronic infection and several experimental compounds will be tested in an effort to eradicate persister populations. 

• Mechanisms in the brain responsible for chronic fatigue, cognitive deficits and pain in post-treatment Lyme disease are not well understood. Alla Landa, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, New York, has received a grant to study these phenomena through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain. By better understanding the neural circuitry in persistent Lyme disease patients, targeted treatments can be developed. 

  • No comprehensive study has focused on biodiversity and tick-borne diseases in the upper Midwest. Dr. Leticia Gutierrez, DVM, Ph.D candidate, Biology Department, University of Missouri, St. Louis, in collaboration with Dr. Robert E. Ricklefs, has been awarded a grant to investigate whether tick-borne diseases will be less prevalent in undisturbed areas or if disease risks increase when humans make changes to the environment where rodent species abound. 

The six grants being funded are in addition to existing multi-year grants already in place.

Founded in 1998, LRA, 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.
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

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