PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., May 22, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Bay Area Lyme Foundation, the leading public not-for-profit sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the US, brought together scientists, philanthropists, celebrities and patients for the fifth annual LymeAid®, an event aimed at making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure. The benefit dinner and concert raised more than $850,000, of which 100% will go directly to fund research for Lyme disease. During the past 5 years, the event has collectively raised $2.4 million specifically for Lyme disease research.
"While it is extremely disheartening to see the rise in tick-borne diseases across the US, we are encouraged by the involvement of more researchers in trying to solve the mysteries of this disease and growing awareness of the general public," said Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. "We are immensely appreciative of how the combined efforts of the science, environmental, technology and financial communities attending LymeAid make our important research programs possible."
Kristen T. Honey, PhD, who holds positions with The White House Office of Management & Budget, Stanford University, and co-founder of Lyme Innovation, shared the challenges she faced in being diagnosed with Lyme disease after more than 10 years of misdiagnoses. Ultimately disabled from Lyme between 2009 and 2012, Kristen outlined her hopes for the future with patient-powered medicine and emerging public-private partnerships providing a path forward to contain and cure Lyme disease.
As master of ceremonies for this year's LymeAid, actor Alec Baldwin, kept the crowd laughing throughout the event, but also shared some sobering statistics about Lyme disease along with his personal experiences with the disease.
"We need more researchers to help us find a cure, or at least a treatment that works for more people," said Alec Baldwin, who is known for his comedic talent as well as his defense of the environment on Long Island. "Lyme disease is so much more common than the statistics suggest – I have family and friends with Lyme disease in NY, LA and everywhere in between."
A deeply committed environmental activist and Grammy award winning writing and recording artist, Kenny Loggins entertained the enthusiastic LymeAid crowd with his songs, "Conviction of the Heart" and "Footloose", among other hits.
The event also afforded attendees the opportunity to learn more about Lyme disease by interacting with:
- Pathogen hunter Pardis Sabeti, MD, DPhil of Harvard University and MIT, who explained how she and her lab colleagues will leverage their experience with Ebola, Lassa fever and Babesia using the latest in gene sequencing techniques, to provide much needed information on which Lyme disease strains are circulating in patients. In addition, she will sequence any additional but uncharacterized pathogens found in Lyme disease patient samples. Highlighted as the Fund-In-Need, this research garnered significant attention from attendees anxious to advance research toward new information about Lyme disease co-infections.
- Liz Horn, PhD, MBI, principal investigator, Lyme Disease Biobank, who was joined by medical professionals from Direct Urgent Care, to explain how the Lyme Disease Biobank is advancing Lyme disease research. Initial funding for the biobank came from funds raised at LymeAid 2014 specifically for this important research effort.
- Nate Nieto, PhD, Assistant Professor, Northern Arizona University, who shared insights related to the research resulting from the Free Tick Testing Citizen Study, another program funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation.
- Ally Hilfiger, who experienced eleven years of misdiagnosis and debilitating Lyme disease symptoms. Allie signed copies of her book, "Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy and Almost Killed Me."
Laure Woods and Bonnie Crater, founders of Bay Area Lyme Foundation, awarded $350,000 in Emerging Leader Award grants, which are designed to attract promising researchers to the study of Lyme disease.
- James J. Collins, Ph.D., Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology was presented with the Alexandra Cohen Emerging Leader Award and a $250,000 grant to research an RNA direct detection diagnostic for early Lyme disease
- Yuko Nakajima, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Brandeis University received the Laure Woods Emerging Leader Award and a $100,000 grant to investigate potential treatments to block immune evasion by the bacteria causing Lyme disease.
The scientists and clinicians who participated in the event included Bay Area Lyme Foundation Scientific Advisory Board members: John Aucott, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Monica E. Embers, PhD, Tulane University Health Sciences; Christine Green, MD, clinician and William Robinson, MD, PhD, Stanford University.
Other researchers and medical professionals in attendance are also making incredible contributions to Lyme disease research, including Sunjya Schweig, MD, Andreas Koglenik, MD, PhD of Open Medicine Institute, Dan Salkeld, PhD, Colorado State University; and Jayakumar Rajadas, PhD, Stanford Lyme Working Group.
Arlene Inch, Jane Inch, Lucy Kuchen, Carolyn Margiotti, Lisa Najarian, and Kathleen O'Rourke were chairs of the event, along with Laure Woods, who hosted the event at her home in Portola Valley.
Honorary hosts included: Daryl Hall, Elet Hall, Jon & Pete Najarian, Jane Seymour, Dana Parish, Davorin Kuchan, Elaine Mellis, Gib & Susan Myers, Jennie Savage, Kirsten & Josh Stein, Mason Tenaglia, and Amy Rao & Harry Plant.
Premier event sponsors included: Whittier Trust, Salesforce, Jaguar and Land Rover of San Francisco and Redwood City. Other event sponsors included: McEvoy Ranch, Erin Mac Jewelry, Benovia Wine, CNBC's Fast Money and Halftime Report.
About Lyme disease
One of the fastest growing vector-borne infectious diseases in the United States, Lyme disease is a potentially debilitating infection caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of an infected tick to people and pets. If caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated, but it is commonly misdiagnosed due to lack of awareness and unreliable diagnostic tests. There are approximately 329,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, according to statistics released in 2015 by the CDC. As a result of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, as many as one million Americans may be suffering from the impact of its debilitating long-term symptoms and complications, according to Bay Area Lyme Foundation estimates.
About Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, is the leading public not-for-profit sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the US. A 501c3 non-profit organization based in Silicon Valley, Bay Area Lyme collaborates with world-class scientists and institutions to accelerate medical breakthroughs for Lyme disease. It is also dedicated to providing reliable, fact-based information so that prevention and the importance of early treatment are common knowledge. A pivotal donation from The Laurel STEM Fund covers all overhead costs and allows for 100% of all donor contributions to Bay Area Lyme Foundation to go directly to research and prevention programs. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit www.bayarealyme.org or call 650-530-2439.
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SOURCE Bay Area Lyme Foundation