Philanthropists Raise Funds for Lyme Disease Research

This past weekend, the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leader in securing funds and conducting innovative research for Lyme disease in the U.S., held a 2-day event to raise money for research into the disease. Scientists, clinicians, notable people, and more than 300 philanthropists gathered for a benefit concert and dinner that raised over $815,000 that will go towards research.

The Bay Area Lyme Foundation is a leading nonprofit organization and advocate for Lyme disease research. Funds from the event will help make Lyme disease easier to diagnose and simple to cure. The event was attended by several noteworthy guests, like Pete and Jon Najarian of CNBC, Google’s Larry Page, philanthropists Amy Rao and Harry Plant, and banker Thom Weisel. Honorary Chairs included Jane and Bert Inch, Gary Morgenthaler, and Elet Hall, a 2014 American Ninja Warrior finalist and Lyme disease sufferer.

The event, called LymeAid, offered lively performances from Diana Ross, who sang “I Will Survive” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Guests danced to her music for over an hour. Before Ross took the stage, a young singer named Kiva, 11, performed an original song, “10 Years and 17 Doctors,” about his own mother’s battle against Lyme disease. Singer-songwriter Dana Parish, also diagnosed with the disease, performed “Pull You Through.”

A panel lead by Dr. Neil Spector, a disease researcher and author of Gone in a Heartbeat, answered questions about Lyme disease and discussed its challenges which, as he describes, are similar to those faced by cancer patients. He also shared some of his own experiences treating the disease for the edification of the attendees.

Two other researchers were given $100,000 grants for their work with the disease. Dr. Britton J. Grasperge of Louisiana State University was awarded the Alexandra Cohen Emerging Leader Award to support his research identifying substances in tick saliva that attract the bacteria that actually causes Lyme disease. Chase Biesel, PhD, from North Carolina State University, was given the Laure Woods Emerging Leader Award to investigate the potential power of a certain genome to target and kill the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is currently one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the country. Its effects can be significant and debilitating, but if the disease is caught early, it can be treated. However, a lack of reliable testing makes the disease difficult to diagnose correctly. About 329,000 new cases are uncovered each year.