January 25, 2022

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Launching Partnerships and “LymeX ECHO” to Drive Diagnostics Innovation for Lyme Disease

18 min read

We must work together to protect the health and well-being of the estimated 476,000 Americans diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease annually.OASH InnovationX is forming and supporting partnerships and collaborations for innovation, emerging technologies, and data-driven government to address the growing threat of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. A multidisciplinary set of stakeholders must be activated and engaged to successfully prevent and control Lyme and other vector-borne diseases in humans. We are highlighting two agencies that we are excited to partner with to address the complex challenges presented by Lyme. These partnerships will help reach our ultimate goal for vector-borne disease to no longer threaten human health and well-being.

Incentivizing Lyme Diagnostics with NASA Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation

The early diagnosis of Lyme disease is crucial. To augment the existing LymeX Innovation Accelerator (LymeX) partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, HHS is collaborating with NASA Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) to accelerate the development of Lyme disease diagnostic tests. Founded in 2011, CoECI collaborates with innovators across NASA and the Federal Government to generate ideas and solve important problems by collaborating with global communities. Through an interagency agreement with the NASA Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation, we are designing the first phase of a competition to incentivize next-generation diagnostics with the end goal of an FDA-approved direct diagnostic test. Following the model of KidneyX, we expect this to be a multi-phased, multi-year competition to develop a direct diagnostic test for measuring active bacterial infection by detecting the presence or absence of Lyme-causing bacteria in the human body. Follow announcements on Challenge.gov.

Reading the Body’s History of Threat Exposure with DARPA ECHO Technology

HHS is also strengthening collaboration related to early-detection methods that improve the federal response to infectious diseases through a partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA has a singular and enduring mission: to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. DARPA began the Epigenetic Characterization and Observation (ECHO) program focused on the rapid detection of any threat, anytime, anywhere by using a new diagnostic landscape, the epigenome. The partnership applies DARPA’s ECHO technology to the evaluation of samples in existing Lyme disease sample biorepositories (“biobanks”) to find unique “fingerprints” to characterize the disease. This joint research approach holds promise for understanding disease states, including patients with enduring symptoms after antibiotic treatment where no definitive diagnostics exist today.

ECHO technology would offer an enormous advantage over today’s Lyme disease tests and diagnostic technologies. These findings will provide researchers, clinicians, and patients with new tools for diagnosis. It would also offer individual-level information for doctors to personalize care for patients, develop an individualized prognosis and treatment plan for individuals, and find new therapeutic options.

Imagine the possibilities if ECHO could develop a unique “fingerprint” for all stages of Lyme disease! It would be transformative for the field. It would be life-changing for millions.

Listening and Learning to Advance LymeX

With these interagency efforts to address Lyme disease through innovation, HHS continues to build its multi-pronged LymeX collaborations while advancing the interagency National Public Health Framework for the Prevention and Control of Vector-Borne Diseases in Humans. These NASA and DARPA partnerships are part of the overall Lyme Innovation initiative, which continues to host LymeX workshops, listening sessions, and events in the open to build trust with diverse stakeholders. To share feedback and stay involved, please follow us on Twitter at @Lyme_X, join our innovation crowdsourcing community, LymeX.Crowdicity.com, or send us a message at LymeInnovation@hhs.gov.

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