HHS and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation Launch Phase 2 of the LymeX Diagnostics Prize

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation (the Foundation) recently launched Phase 2 of the LymeX Diagnostics Prize, inviting the ten Phase 1 winners to participate in a virtual accelerator. Through September 2023, the virtual accelerator cohort will refine their concepts for detecting active Lyme disease infections in people. The goal of the multiphase LymeX Diagnostic Prize competition is to nurture the development of diagnostics toward Food and Drug Administration review. “Phase 1 of the LymeX Diagnostics Prize recognized ten winners for their substantial potential to transform the future of Lyme disease diagnostics,” said Rear Admiral Michael Iademarco, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science and Medicine in the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

The LymeX Diagnostics Prize Virtual Accelerator provides a pathway to nurture the development of the next generation of Lyme disease diagnostics toward FDA submission and market. The current two-tier serological testing system to detect Lyme disease relies on the presence of antibodies, which often take four to six weeks after infection to become detectable in humans. This testing with a significant lag time, called a seronegative window of infection, delays diagnosis. Delayed diagnoses prevent timely crucial treatment interventions.

By using a prize competition, rather than relying on traditional grantmaking, the LymeX Diagnostics Prize offers cash prizes alongside a range of non-monetary resources. The competition is designed to stimulate the market for Lyme disease diagnostics by bringing together a diverse group of experts to address an unmet societal need. The LymeX Diagnostics Prize Phase 1 inspired 52 teams to submit innovative concepts, which judges evaluated, and HHS awarded $1 million to 10 winning teams ($100,000 to each team) in a highly competitive field. Learn more about the Phase 1 winners and their diagnostic concepts on the competition website.

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“We are proud to support LymeX with HHS and believe in the power of open innovation in the fight against this debilitating disease,” said Alexandra Cohen, President of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. “As the LymeX Diagnostics Prize has demonstrated, collaboration will continue to accelerate the necessary discovery and development of Lyme disease diagnostics.”

The LymeX Diagnostics Prize Virtual Accelerator offers the cohort access to virtual learning, mentorship, biorepository subject matter expertise, and networking opportunities designed to help the teams progress toward FDA review. A selection of accelerator resources will be made available to the public on the competition website to support broader innovation in Lyme disease diagnostics and treatment.

Phase 2 coincides with the next phase of federal nurturing of tick-borne-disease solutions. Therefore, LymeX will continue ongoing, robust HHS engagement with the patient-led community and diverse partners throughout 2023. An upcoming series of public webinars and LymeX events will offer opportunities for continued public engagement, open to everyone, for information exchange and continuous two-way learning.

The competition judging panel—composed of experts across sectors such as vector-borne disease biology, clinical and technology translation, patient experience and advocacy, and diagnostic science and technology—will evaluate eligible submissions according to official Phase 2 evaluation criteria. Based on the judges’ evaluations, the panel will recommend up to five Phase 2 winners of the LymeX Diagnostics Prize.

Thanks to a $10 million pledge to the LymeX Diagnostics Prize from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, $9 million in LymeX prizes are projected to be available in proposed future phases. Phase 2 is part of this multi-year, multi-phased LymeX Diagnostics Prize series that HHS plans to announce further details for in early 2023.

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