The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation have announced $2 million in Phase 2 prizes for the LymeX Diagnostics Prize. Through October 2023, the ten Phase 1 winners are participating in a virtual accelerator designed to help them refine their concepts for detecting active Lyme disease infections in people. During the Phase 2 accelerator, the cohort has access to virtual learning, mentorship, biorepository subject matter expertise, and networking opportunities. The goal of this multiphase LymeX Innovation Accelerator (LymeX) competition is to nurture the development of diagnostics toward Food and Drug Administration review.
Using a prize competition model consistent with the America COMPETES Act, the LymeX Diagnostics Prize incorporates cash prizes alongside a range of non-monetary resources to stimulate the market and bring together a diverse group of experts. The need for new testing methods for Lyme disease is only growing. The two-tier antibody testing system—originally developed in 1994 for disease surveillance, not as a stand-alone diagnostic test—relies on the presence of antibodies and can only be used accurately four to six weeks after patients become infected. However, available treatments are most effective when used early in the acute stage of the disease.
“Under the Biden-Harris Administration, HHS has made it a priority to expand Americans’ access to health care—and particularly the accurate diagnostics crucial for timely treatment interventions,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel L. Levine, M.D. “Through our LymeX Innovation Accelerator public-private partnership with the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, we are incentivizing innovators across academia and the private sector to come together to improve Lyme disease diagnostics.”
Phase 2 will award the $2 million prize pool based on the accelerator cohort’s interim and final submissions. In June 2023, the ten Phase 2 teams were invited to submit concept papers to be considered for the interim prize. Based on the judging panel’s assessment, up to ten teams may be selected to receive an interim prize of up to $75,000 each. At the end of Phase 2, up to five teams may be selected to receive an equal share of the remaining prize pool, with at least $250,000 per winner.
“We are proud to partner with HHS to provide the resources to advance these diagnostic concepts toward FDA review,” said Alex Cohen, President of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. “Developing tests for active Lyme infection is a critical first step toward improving outcomes for this disabling disease.”
In October 2023, the cohort will submit final concept papers that detail solution refinement, include clinical and patient input, and propose a roadmap from lab to market that includes FDA review. The competition judging panel—composed of experts in areas 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 judging 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, an additional $7 million in LymeX prizes are projected to be available in the future. HHS plans to announce additional details for the next stage of the LymeX Diagnostics Prize later this year.
In addition, 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.
The LymeX Diagnostics Prize is sponsored by the LymeX Innovation Accelerator, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. LymeX is the world’s largest public-private partnership for Lyme disease, fostering collaborative innovation among patients and advocates, academia, nonprofits, industry, and government. As a component of a larger moonshot, LymeX is identifying, developing, and implementing advancements in Lyme disease care. In addition to accelerating next-generation diagnostics, LymeX is spearheading development of human-centered solutions and fostering breakthroughs in education and awareness. For more information, visit lyme-x.org.
About the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
HHS enhances and protects the health and well-being of all Americans. HHS fulfills that mission by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services. For more information, visit hhs.gov.
About the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation
The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation is committed to inspiring philanthropy and community service by creating awareness, offering guidance, and leading by example to show the world what giving can do. The Foundation’s grants support nonprofit organizations based in the United States that either help people in need or solve complex problems. The Foundation is the largest private funder of Lyme and tick-borne disease research in the United States with over $75 million disbursed for groundbreaking studies in prevention, diagnostics, and treatment as well as building essential research infrastructure to catalyze innovation. The Foundation also spearheads grassroots campaigns to encourage others to give. For more information, visit steveandalex.org.