Robertson, Katie

Robertson Karie loKarie Robertson, B.S., PhD (candidate)
School of Molecular Sciences
Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery
Arizona State University


2018 Poster Presentation

Membrane-targeted expression of proteins from B. burgdorferi in E. coli for structural and functional studies

Borrelia burgdorferi employs unique integral-membrane proteins and lipoproteins to masterfully manipulate and evade the host immune system. Additionally, the pathogen is unable to synthesize key nutrients, and must uptake them from the host using integral membrane proteins. These membrane proteins are key to further understanding the Borrelia infection pathway and would make optimal drug targets. To the best of our knowledge, all membrane-associated protein structures for B. burgdorferi in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) have been determined by cleaving off the membrane-targeting signal sequences and folding the proteins in the cell cytoplasm. However, structures from other bacteria have shown that maintaining the signal sequence results in a completely different structure due to the influence of complex membrane protein folding pathways. Towards structure determination of membrane-integral proteins from B. burgdorferi, we have successfully expressed in E. coli several membrane-associated proteins with suspected roles in pathogenesis by maintaining the B. burgdorferi membrane targeting sequence, and screened two for membrane localization and detergent solubility.


Horn, Liz

LH HeadshotLiz Horn, PhD, MBI
Poster Presentation
Human Tissue Collection Program
Principal Investigator
Lyme Disease Biobank
Portland, OR

Liz Horn, PhD, MBI, Principal Investigator, Lyme Disease Biobank

Liz has spent more than a decade building research initiatives and collaborations with non-profit organizations, with a focus on registries and biobanks. She has been working in Lyme disease since 2013 and was part of the team that launched the Lyme Disease Biobank. The Biobank was created to provide much-needed samples to researchers studying Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections, and each participant’s sample donation supports up to 50 different research projects. Currently, more than 425 early acute samples and endemic controls are available to investigators. The Biobank is expanding to collect samples from patients with persistent Lyme disease, including post-mortem tissues.

Liz earned her doctorate in molecular pharmacology and cancer therapeutics from SUNY at Buffalo, was a National Library of Medicine fellow in biomedical informatics, and received her M.B.I. from Oregon Health & Science University. She has mentored and trained >75 advocacy organizations in the translational research enterprise, and helped these groups initiate collaborations with academia, other non-profits, and industry.

2018 Poster Presentation

Lyme Disease Biobank and National Disease Research Interchange Partnership: Human Tissue Collection Program to Accelerate Biomedical Research for Lyme Disease and other Tick-Borne Infections

Liz Horn, PhD, MBI1, Melissa VonDran, PhD2, Andrew J. Dwork, MD3,4, Honesto I. Nunez III2, Lorraine Johnson, JD5, Jennifer Shaw2, Saboor Shad2, Cristina Kelly2, Kerrie Copelin2, Alisa McDonald2, Thomas J. Bell, MS, PhD2

1Lyme Disease Biobank, Portland, OR; 2National Disease Research Interchange, Philadelphia, PA; 3Columbia University, New York, NY; 4New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY;, Chico, CA

Human biospecimens can provide scientists with a model system to advance our understanding of human biology and pathophysiology. The Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB) has partnered with the National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI) to collect a diverse range of tissue biospecimens from individuals with persistent Lyme disease. NDRI has over 35 years of experience serving as a critical link between individuals wishing to donate tissues for research and investigators who are working to find new treatments for a wide range of diseases. NDRI’s Donor Programs give patients and their family members an opportunity to make a significant contribution to research and development by providing a straightforward mechanism through which tissues and organs can be donated. The LDB-NDRI partnership will enable the collection of post-mortem and surgical tissues from individuals with LD and other tick-borne infections (TBI).  During the developmental phase, LDB and NDRI, in collaboration with the LDB Tissue Working Group, have created customized recovery protocols to address the major experimental needs within the Lyme research community. Priority areas for post-mortem tissue collection include neurologic tissue (brain, spinal cord, nerves), cardiovascular tissue (heart and arteries), musculoskeletal tissue (muscle, cartilage and synovial membrane), lymph nodes, liver, bladder, and spleen. When the program launches in Fall 2018, NDRI will maintain a registry of individuals interested in donating tissues, obtain consent for donation, develop a donation plan, and coordinate the recovery, packaging and shipping of biospecimens to the LDB for use by approved researchers. Potential participants will have the option of sharing their information with the MyLymeData registry, leveraging the robust data profiles from MyLymeData with tissue biospecimens. Together, LDB and NDRI will provide the research community with well annotated tissue biospecimens that are suitable for state-of-the-art experimental methods that can begin to address whether there is evidence of inflammation and evidence of infection in tissues in patients with persistent Lyme disease. Collectively, this approach can play a key role in accelerating the bench-to-bedside pathway to develop improved diagnostics and new treatments for patients with LD and other TBI. For more information, please visit

Funding Acknowledgement: Lyme Disease Biobank is a program of Bay Area Lyme Foundation. This program is funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation.

Click here for poster

Patel, Kavin

PatelKavin Patel, MD
Internal Medicine
Rhode Island Hospital and Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Providence, RI

First Confirmed Case of Powassan Neuroinvasive Disease in Rhode Island (co-presenting with Dr. Reece)

Dr. Kavin Patel is an internal medicine resident at Brown University and an aspiring infectious disease specialist. He works closely with Dr. Reece and their research interests includes tick-borne diseases including Lyme, Babesia and Powassan.

Conference Lecture Summary

The Powassan Virus is the tick-borne vector responsible for Powassan neuroinvasive disease. The virus was first isolated in 1958 and has been responsible for approximately 100 cases of neuroinvasive disease. Rates of infection have been on the rise over the past decade with numerous states reporting their first confirmed case; New Jersey, New Hampshire and Connecticut all reported their first case within the last five years. The following presentation reviews the first confirmed case of Powassan neuroinvasive disease in the nearby state of Rhode Island. The case study provides evidence for the increasing spread of Powassan neuroinvasive disease and reinforces the importance of requesting focused testing for Powassan Virus in patients from an endemic area with a clinically compatible syndrome.

Reece, Rebecca

reece rebeccaRebecca Reece, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine (Clinical)
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Providence, RI

First Confirmed Case of Powassan Neuroinvasive Disease in Rhode Island (co-presenting with Dr. Patel)

Dr. Rebecca Reece completed her internal medicine residency at West Virginia University and infectious disease fellowship at Brown University, where she has remained on as co-director of the Lifespan Lyme Disease Center. She also works closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health as co-chair of the Antimicrobial Stewardship and Environmental Cleaning Task Force.

Conference Lecture Summary

The Powassan Virus is the tick-borne vector responsible for Powassan neuroinvasive disease. The virus was first isolated in 1958 and has been responsible for approximately 100 cases of neuroinvasive disease. Rates of infection have been on the rise over the past decade with numerous states reporting their first confirmed case; New Jersey, New Hampshire and Connecticut all reported their first case within the last five years. The following presentation reviews the first confirmed case of Powassan neuroinvasive disease in the nearby state of Rhode Island. The case study provides evidence for the increasing spread of Powassan neuroinvasive disease and reinforces the importance of requesting focused testing for Powassan Virus in patients from an endemic area with a clinically compatible syndrome.

Delaney, Shannon L.

delaneyShannon Delaney, MD, MA
Instructor in Psychiatry
Director, Child and Adolescent Research and Evaluation 
at the Lyme & Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center 
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, NY

Borrelia Miyamotoi Exposure in a Clinical Population

Dr. Delaney is a neuropsychiatrist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center who is co-investigator with Dr. Fallon on studies of adults and children with Lyme disease. She completed her NIH-sponsored research fellowship at Columbia University in 2017. Her clinical research has focused on immune and infectious contributions to psychiatric disease, especially psychosis in children and young adults. A member of our team for over three years, she has recently joined an initiative to establish a PANDAS/PANS clinical assessment, treatment, and research center with experts from the Columbia Departments of Neurology, Pathology, and Psychiatry. This PANS/PANDAS initiative will allow children and young adults with complex neuropsychiatric presentations to be evaluated for a variety of infectious and immune causes of neuropsychiatric disorders.


Conference Lecture Summary

The first recognized cases of Borrelia Miyamotoi disease (BMD) in North America were reported in the northeastern United States in 2013, but much about the clinical features of this disease remains unknown. Our Second Opinion Evaluation Service at Columbia University Medical
Center evaluates patients with persistent symptoms who have a history of treatment for possible or definite Lyme disease. Since the summer of 2017, we assessed 52 patients for B. miyamoti antibodies (using an ELISA based on the recombinant glycerophosphodiester phosphodiesterase (rGlpQ) protein) through a specialty laboratory in Massachusetts. 14 of the 52 (27%) were positive for rGlpQ IgG antibodies. In a preliminary exploration to assess whether a history of infection with B miyamatoi alters the clinical profile among persistently ill patients, we compared
individuals representing subgroups: a) history of well-documented past Lyme disease (Lyme positive) and BM positive; b) Lyme positive but BM negative; and c) Lyme negative and BM negative. Results on standardized self-report assessments (somatic, behavioral, functioning) completed by all patients will be contrasted and reported. Additionally, results from comprehensive neurocognitive testing on a subset of
these patients will be reported.

Skare, Jon T.

SkareJon T. Skare, PhD
Professor and Associate Head
Dept. of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology
Texas A&M University
Bryan, TX

Pathogenesis-related features of Borrelia burgdorferi

Jon Skare is Professor and Associate Head of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology in the College of Medicine at Texas A&M University. His research program has been funded continuously by the National Institute of Health since 1999 . Dr. Skare has trained
over 40 students in his research group during his time at Texas A&M and several of his postdoctoral trainees and students have gone on to hold academic positions.

Specifically, the Skare lab is interested in spirochetal infections, particularly Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiologic agent of Lyme disease. The long-term interests of his research group are centered on understanding how B. burgdorferi promotes its pathogenic potential and persists in the disparatehosts it occupies in nature (e.g., both ticks and mammals). In this regard, the research program is aligned with: (i) regulatory pathways that contribute to the establishment of infection during the arthropod to mammalian transition; (ii) characterizing the response to oxidative stressors in B. burgdorferi and the regulation thereof; (iii) identifying and characterizing surface structures that contribute to the colonization and maintenance of infection via adherence mechanisms; and (iv) the ability of B. burgdorferi and relapsing fever Borrelia to persistently infect hosts in the face of
a potent innate and adaptive immune response.

Conference Lecture Summary

In this presentation, Dr. Jon Skare will present a background of Lyme borreliosis as well as a discussion of some of the limitations and challenges that are currently under investigation from the basic science perspective. He will also present some of the work being done in his research group to evaluate how B. burgdorferi carries out it pathogenic potential at the molecular level.

Platts-Mills, Thomas A.

Platts MillsThomas A. Platts-Mills, PhD, FRS
Professor of Medicine and Microbiology
Chief, Division of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology
University of Virginia School of Medicine
Charlottesville, VA

Sensitization to Alpha-gal as a Consequence of Lone Star Tick Bites

Thomas Platts-Mills is Professor of Medicine and Microbiology at the UVA School of Medicine. The son of a British member of parliament, he was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and received his medical training at St. Thomas’ Hospital Medical School in London. He earned a PhD from London University and completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Kimishige Ishizaka. He has been a member of Britain’s Royal College of Physicians since 1971.

Dr. Platts-Mills joined UVA’s faculty in 1982, and has served as chief of the Allergy division since 1993. He has also served a term as president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI).

In 2010, Dr. Platts-Mills was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his research into the causes of asthma and allergic disease. The Royal Society is the United Kingdom’s national academy of science and the oldest scientific academy in the world. Only a small number of fellows are physicians, and Platts-Mills is the first allergist ever elected. His election was based on more than 30 years of research on the role that dust mite, cat and cockroach allergens play in the development of allergic disease and asthma.

Conference Lecture Summary

In large areas of the United States, the lone star tick Amblyomma americanum has increased dramatically because of the increase in the deer population which is the primary breeding host for this tick. The lone stars are known vectors for several diseases, but recently it has been shown that bites from larval or adult ticks can induce sensitization to an important oligosaccharide of the non-primate mammals. This sensitization can be
identified by an in vitro assay for IgE to galactose alpha-1, 3-galactose (alpha-gal.) The presence of this antibody was first recognized because of severe reactions to the monoclonal antibody cetuximab. However, equally significant, it is now clear that sensitized subjects can experience delayed anaphylaxis 2-5 hours after eating red meat. This form of delayed reactivity was initially difficult to diagnose. It is now clear that the combination of reactions starting in adult life, the characteristic delay after eating red meat and a positive blood test, is sufficient to diagnose the condition. Furthermore, in these cases a diet avoiding red meat is effective in 90% of cases in preventing further severe attacks. Strikingly, bites of these ticks that are related to sensitization produce severe and prolonged itching at the site, which is very different from the experience with bites from Ixodes scapularis. Although the lone star tick routinely carries Rickettsia amblyomii, there is very little evidence that the sensitization to the oligosaccharide is caused by symbionts.


William Robinson, MD, PhDSkare
Professor of Medicine (Immunology and Rheumatology)
Staff Physician, VA Palo Alto
Stanford University
Palo Alto, CA

Protective and Pathogenic B Cell Responses in Lyme Disease

The Robinson laboratory works in the fields of B cell biology, autoimmunity and inflammation. Dr. Robinson pioneered development of protein arrays, lipid arrays, and high-throughput sequencing approaches to identify the targets of antibody responses, investigate mechanisms underlying disease, and to develop novel therapeutic approaches. Dr. Robinson co-founded the Stanford Human Immune Monitoring Center, serves on the editorial boards of several journals, and serves on the Board of Directors of the American College of Rheumatology and the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies. He is an inventor on 23 patent applications, and technologies developed in his Stanford and VA laboratories have been licensed to nine companies in the biotechnology industry. Dr. Robinson was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Henry Kunkel Society. Dr. Robinson received his MD and PhD degrees from Stanford University, and completed his clinical training in internal medicine at UCSF.

Conference Lecture Summary

We are applying immune repertoire sequencing to characterize the B cell and antibody response following Borrelia burgdorferi infection and in post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).  We show that robust B cell responses producing anti-Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies are associated with return to health following acute infection.  



Buchthal, Joanna

BuchthalJoanna Buchthal, PhD (candidate)
Project Manager, Mice Against Ticks
MIT Media Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Boston, MA

A scientist, entrepreneur, and designer, Joanna is currently pursuing her PhD in the Sculpting Evolution Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her research is focused on preventing Lyme and other tick-borne diseases by engineering heritably resistant white-footed mice, the primary reservoir of the pathogens that cause many tick-borne illnesses in the Northeast. As the Project Manager and a resident of Martha’s Vineyard, she has been pioneering an open and community-guided approach to her research by involving her own community at every stage, a model of engagement she hopes will spread throughout science. Previously, she has worked as a researcher at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and at NASA’s Habitability Design Center, and as COO of a natural language processing start-up. She holds a BFA in industrial design from Rhode Island School of Design.

Mice Against Ticks: Community-Guided Research for Public Health

Few areas are as afflicted by Lyme as the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, which have some of the highest rates of infection in the nation. Mice Against Ticks is an open, community-guided project which aims to safeguard these islands by reducing the number of disease-carrying ticks. Because most ticks become infected when they bite infected white-footed mice, scientists are working to create tick-borne disease resistant white-footed mice that are capable of passing their resistance to their offspring. If a large number of resistant mice were released onto an island like Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, they would introduce immunity to the native mouse population by breeding with the local mice, deplete the local disease reservoir and dramatically reduce the population of infected ticks. Mainland mouse populations within individual towns could be similarly immunized using daisy threshold technology being developed in Dr. Kevin Esvelt’s lab at MIT. Uniquely, the communities of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have been involved in the project from the outset, providing direction before any experiments were conducted in the lab. Mice Against Ticks will be guided by public feedback as we aim to provide a long-lasting, safe and eco-friendly solution to this growing public health challenge.


Flegr, Jaroslav

Jaroslav Flegr, PhDjfsmall1
Professor of Ecology and Associate Professor of Parasitology
National Institute of Mental Health
Klecany, Czechia
Faculty of Science, Charles University
Prague, Czechia

The Effect of Pet-Transmitted Diseases on the Mental and Physical Health of the General Population

Jaroslav Flegr is an evolutionary biologist and evolutionary psychologist affiliated to Fac. of Science
Charles University and National Institute of Public Health, Czechia. He is a discoverer of effects of latent
toxoplasmosis and Rh factor on human behavior and mental and physical health, as well as an author of
theories of frozen plasticity and frozen evolution. He has published four books and about 150 research

Conference Lecture Summary

Cross-sectional studies showed that being injured by a cat correlates with symptoms of impaired mental
health, such as depressiveness, the probability of being diagnosed with major depression, and also with
the occurrence of many physical health problems. Cat scratch disease, the infection with the
bacterium Bartonella henselae, was suggested to be responsible for these associations. We have
recently found that the situation can be more complicated and that other pathogens transmitted from cats
can be responsible for the associations