What is the Columbia TBD Research Center all About?


Who will head the Center and advise it?
The Director of the Center will be Dr. Brian Fallon, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

The Scientific Advisory Board for the Columbia Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center brings together internationally-renowned scientists, including Dr. Claire Fraser (led the team that mapped the Borrelia Genome), Dr. Janis Weis (pathogenesis of Lyme arthritis), Dr. John Mann (translational neuroscience), Dr. Steven Schutzer (novel diagnostic tests), Dr. Ian Lipkin (foreign pathogen identification), Dr. Jorge Benach (Borrelia and Coinfections), Dr. Scott Hammer (infectious disease), Dr. Diego Cadavid (neuropathology and neurology), Dr. Ronald Van Heertum (neuroimaging), and Dr. Aaron Mitchell (molecular pathogenesis).

What is the Center?
The Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center will use the vast resources of Columbia University in New York to bring together various disciplines from within and outside of the university to address fundamental clinical and basic science questions that plague adults and children affected by Lyme disease.

The clinical and research mission includes studies of new diagnostic tests, clinical phenomenology, immunopathogenesis, co-infections, genetic markers of vulnerability, functional and structural brain imaging, neuoropathology of post-mortem brains, and well-controlled studies of new treatments. This Center, the first such facility in the world devoted to chronic Lyme disease, will serve as a national resource, providing pilot grants to researchers nation-wide and focusing the latest scientific technology on helping to resolve the problems of chronic Lyme disease.

Where will the Center be located?
The Center will use existing space within Columbia University Medical Center.

When will the Center officially open?
April 30, 2007, opening ceremonies.

Why is the Center needed?
While much is known about early Lyme disease, relatively little is known about chronic Lyme disease, despite its rising prevalence and disabling effects. These effects may include arthritis, cognitive loss, peripheral neuropathies, and debilitating fatigue. Sometimes, LD may also cause strokes, blindness, severe psychiatric disorders, and multiple-sclerosis-like illnesses. Adults may become permanently disabled, and children may be home sick for months or years, missing the key academic and social influences so critical to healthy development.

How was the Center established?
The national New Jersey-based Lyme Disease Association, Inc. (LDA) and Connecticut-based Time For Lyme (TFL) who are affiliated organizations, partnered with Columbia in the development of this center concept and devoted a large percent of their efforts and resources in the past 5 years to funding the endowment for the Center. People nationwide contributed to make this effort a success.

LDA’s Literati with Lyme, a group of authors and others in the publishing field, helped in the fundraising effort (Amy Tan, Meg Cabot, Rebecca Wells, Jordan Fisher Smith, E. Jean Carol, Jennifer Weis) as did LDA’s National Spokesperson, two time Oscar-nominated actor, Mary McDonnell, currently starring in the Peabody Award TV series, BattleStar Galactica. Many other professionals and corporations contributed their efforts to help the LDA & TFL establish the Center.

Quotes on the Center Opening
Pat Smith, LDA President
“This is a banner day for everyone connected to Lyme disease and those at risk for tick-borne diseases. Columbia University now houses a premier center which will focus efforts on a definitive Lyme test, chronic Lyme disease, tissue studies, and even tick pathogens. The unsettled science which has clouded diagnosis and treatment will be closely examined in an environment where researchers are interested in discovering the truth about Lyme disease.”

Brian Fallon, MD, Director, Lyme & Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center
"Benefits accrue exponentially when scientists from multiple disciplines apply their specific expertise to solve complex problems. This is what is so tremendously valuable about this new Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia, as the solutions to fundamental diagnostic and treatment questions require the coordinated effort of highly skilled scientists using the latest in biotechnology that only a university-based center can provide."

Amy Tan, Author
"My deep gratitude to all those whose commitment helped create this world-class center for Lyme disease research. For many of us, it is also a center for hope. We now know there is support
for the best minds in science and medicine to work toward more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment of a widespread and devastating disease."

Rebecca Wells, Author
"Sometimes when I am weak, lying in bed, I think of those with Lyme who cannot turn from side to side and I give thanks. Sometimes when I am strong and can exercise a bit, I think of those who cannot walk, and I give thanks. Gratitude is what keeps me going.

I have great gratitude for the opening of this Center. I pray that the research done here will be blessed with good work, work that gives those of us suffering with Lyme hope and healing, work that flows from the minds and hearts and bodies of those doing the research into the bodies, hearts, and minds of we who daily do our best to claw our way, in darkness, out of the trenches of Lyme. I pray that the work that this Center grows will help soften the world that Lyme patients live in, and widens our world with the healing power of knowledge.

In our shared longing for knowledge, all of us– those who live with Lyme; those who work to heal; those who work to shed light on the labyrinthine passages of this disease through research; and those, who with their activism, move us forward, will, create a force field so strong that no shape-shifting spirochete can stop it. We shall walk hand in hand, and make it clear to the unknowing, and those who know, but turn their heads in greedy denial that we will no longer let Lyme flourish in darkness. The light we shine shall be a healing light. The movement from ignorance to knowledge will be felt in the bones of those who cannot turn over in bed, who cannot walk. Knowledge is power, and real power remembers the weak, the ill, and the forgotten. We shall not forget anyone who suffers. The search is a brave one, and will touch us all."  © Rebecca Wells 2007