Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the United States, brought together scientists, philanthropists, celebrities and patients for the sixth annual LymeAid, an event aimed at raising funds to make Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure. This year’s benefit dinner and concert raised more than $1 million, of which 100 percent will go directly to fund research and education projects for Lyme disease.
“Support for Lyme disease research continues to grow, perhaps because of the increasing numbers of people who are severely impacted,” remarked Linda Giampa, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “We are honored to have renowned scientists and up-and-coming researchers lending their expertise to our efforts, and taking the time to educate and engage philanthropists and high-profile personalities through our annual LymeAid event.”
Multiple Bay Area Lyme Foundation research projects are supported by funds raised at LymeAid each year, including studies to better understand the ecology of ticks, and to identify better diagnostics and treatments that will work for all patients.
During her welcome remarks at LymeAid 2018, Giampa led attendees in a moment of silence for all those who have died from Lyme disease. Among these are four women from the San Francisco Bay Area, one of whom experienced cardiac involvement of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and the other three succumbed to the complicated neurologic effects of the disease
Guest speakers and special guests at LymeAid 2018 helped to reinforce the devastating impact of Lyme disease, and encourage attendee engagement. Colonel Nicole Malachowski, USAF, Retired, the first female fighter pilot selected to fly as part of the elite US Air Force Thunderbirds, shared her personal experience with Lyme disease, which forced her medical retirement from the military. “Tick-borne illness brought me to my knees,” said Malachowski, who suffered for more than four years before obtaining an accurate diagnosis, harboring long-term complications from the disease. “I needed every bit of mental and physical endurance training I was given as a fighter pilot to survive this disease.”
Wendy Adams, Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s research grant director, shared statistics demonstrating the impact of Lyme disease, and offered details about studies being funded by the Foundation, including the Lyme Disease Biobank, and research being conducted at Brandeis University, Colorado State University, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Tulane.
During the event, the Bay Area Lyme Foundation also announced the recipients of the annual Emerging Leader Awards. George Church, Ph.D. and Ting Wu, Ph.D., were each awarded a $250,000 grant to launch the Genomic Lyme Disease Research Initiative project at Harvard Medical School. Michal Caspi Tal, Ph.D. and Steven E. Phillips, M.D. will each receive $100,000 toward therapeutic research related to immunotherapy and an innovative new drug aimed at eliminating chronic tick-borne infections, respectively.
John Aucott, M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Christine Green, M.D., clinician, Nate Nieto, Ph.D., Northern Arizona State University; Sunjya K. Schweig, M.D., and William Robinson, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University, were among the Bay Area Lyme Foundation Scientific Advisory Board members who participated in the 2018 event. Other scientists and clinicians in attendance included Andreas Koglenik, M.D., Ph.D., Open Medicine Institute, Dan Salkeld, Ph.D., Colorado State University, and Jayakumar Rajadas, Ph.D., Stanford Lyme Working Group.
Jay Leno served as master of ceremonies for this year’s LymeAid, and generously donated visits to his personal garage, raising $70,000 for the Foundation on this auction item alone. Following the speakers and formal program, Chris Isaak entertained the enthusiastic crowd with his songs, “Wicked Game” and “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” among other hits.