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HHS, Cohen Foundation Award $1M to Lyme Disease Dx Research Projects

NEW YORK — The US Department of Health and Human Services and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation said last week that they have awarded a total of $1 million in funding to 10 groups developing diagnostic technologies for Lyme disease.

The funding is being provided through the LymeX Diagnostics Prize initiative, which was launched in late 2020 by the HHS- and Cohen Foundation-funded Lyme Innovation Accelerator (LymeX) to advance Lyme disease care. Recipients of the funding will receive $100,000 each and have the opportunity to participate in a second phase of the prize program.

Industry prize winners include BlueArc Biosciences, which is developing a PCR-based molecular diagnostic for early Lyme disease detection; HelixBind, which is developing a test that uses novel sample preparation and artificial nucleic acid detection to identify active infection in whole blood, synovial fluid, and cerebrospinal fluid; InBios International, which is working on a microarray- and artificial intelligence-based serum test for early Lyme diagnosis; Serimmune, which is advancing a next-generation sequencing-based serum test that incorporates patient-centric surveillance testing, population data, and machine learning; and T2 Biosystems, which is developing a whole-blood test to directly detect Lyme disease-causing bacteria.

Other winners include Drexel University College of Medicine researchers working on a small-volume serum test using glycan biomarkers to detect active Lyme disease infection and track treatment responses; a George Mason University group developing a urine-based test that targets absolutely specific protein molecules; Massachusetts General Hospital scientists developing a sequencing-based plasma test for detecting low-abundance nucleic acid from tick-borne pathogens; a Tufts University group developing a serum test that targets a unique Lyme-related antibody; and a Virginia Tech team developing a technique that combines monoclonal antibodies and immuno-PCR to detect a Lyme disease pathogen biomarker in biofluids.

HHS and the Cohen Foundation said that future phases of the LymeX Diagnostics Prize are expected to focus on clinical and nonclinical validation of diagnostic tests that detect active infection by Lyme disease-causing bacteria, as well as readiness for regulatory submission and market entry, with up to $9 million in prize money.