UConn News HomeUConn News

Additional $100,000 in grant funding given to UConn Lyme disease researchers (Released: 3/31/97)

by David Pesci, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- University scientists developing a more effective diagnostic test for Lyme disease have received $100,000 in additional funding and a renewal of their contract with Connaught Laboratories Inc. of Swiftwater, Pa.

Hallie Krider, professor of molecular and cell biology, and Sandra Bushmich, associate professor of pathobiology, have been collaborating with Connaught since 1994. Their goal is to find a new early-detection Lyme disease test that will improve the effectiveness of treatment, reduce patient suffering from the disease, and cut the costs of treatment.

"This can be a really important diagnostic tool with the potential to help many people avoid a considerable amount of unnecessary suffering," Bushmich said. "It can also save the health care system a lot of money."

The progress of Krider and Bushmich on the test has been encouraging, prompting Connaught to extend the contract.

The additional funding brings Connaught's total investment in the project to more than $400,000, said Stewart Rosenberg, president and CEO of Bio-Investigation Ltd., the Madison, Conn., venture capital firm that negotiated the original collaboration between the University and Connaught.

Current tests for Lyme disease do not provide results until three to six weeks after a person has been infected. Bushmich and Krider hope their new test can cut this time nearly in half. They also believe the method of testing may be useful for other diagnostic procedures.

"This new test method has the potential to be used for a variety of other diseases, although exactly what, I can't say yet because we are still waiting on the patent," Bushmich said. "Let's just say it will be a major advance in diagnostic testing if it's approved."

UConn owns all the technology associated with the test that is developed in its laboratories. The University can file for patents and collect royalties on the sale of products based on these technologies. Bio-Investigations holds the exclusive, worldwide license to the UConn diagnostic technology. Connaught, a subsidiary of Institute Merieux, a private research firm in France, has first rights to manufacture and sell the new diagnostic products. The company also produces vaccines against influenza, yellow fever, diptheria and other diseases.

Lyme disease endangers both humans and animals. It is the most widespread tick-borne illness in the United States. First reported in Old Lyme, Conn., in 1975, the state remains a major locale for the disease. According to the Connecticut Department of Health Services, 8,185 cases were reported in statewide 1993. But experts estimate that only less than 20 percent of all cases are reported.

Several other states, including New York, New J ersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Minnesota, also have high infection rates in both humans and animals.