First Lyme Disease Research Center in Nation Launches at Columbia University Medical Center

Contact: Susan Craig, CUMC, (212) 305-3900;
Dacia Morris, NYSPI, (212) 543-5421;


First Lyme Disease Research Center in Nation Launches at Columbia University Medical Center

Symposium to Cover Frequent Misdiagnosis & Controversial Treatment Guidelines, Rising U.S. Incidence, Imaging of Brains Affected by Lyme

Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) celebrates the launch of the Lyme & Tick-borne Diseases Research Center, the first university center for the study of Lyme disease in the U.S. The center, with the instrumental and ongoing support of Time for Lyme, Inc. and Lyme Disease Association, Inc., will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of CUMC’s physician-scientists and the latest advances in medical technology to help unravel the complexities of Lyme and tick-borne diseases.

Symposium topics & speakers will include:

Lyme Disease in the United States Today: Charles Ben Beard, PhD, head of vector borne diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Severity of Illness & Misdiagnosis: Mary McDonnell, two-time Academy Award nominee, star of “Battlestar Galactica,” “Independence Day” and “Dances With Wolves,.” spokesperson for Lyme Disease Association, Inc. 

Controversial Diagnostic & Treatment Guidelines: Brian Fallon, MD, MPH, director of Lyme and Tick-borne Disease Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center

Identification of Unknown Pathogens in Ticks: W. Ian Lipkin, MD, PhD, director of the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory, Mailman School of Public Health, and Rafal Tokarz, PhD, post-doc investigating other human diseases caused by ticks

Neuroimaging of Chronic Lyme Disease: James Moeller, PhD, research scientist and functional neuroimaging expert.

WHEN: Monday, April 30, 2007, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Press availability from 1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. or by arrangement with press officers.

WHERE: Columbia University Medical Center/New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Hellman Auditorium, 1st floor, subway: A/C/1 to 168th St.

• Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector borne, or organism-transmitted, disease in the United States.
• The burden of Lyme disease profoundly affects New York state and its immediate neighbors:
     1. New York state accounts for 24 percent of all cases of Lyme disease reported to the CDC annually, with the annual incidence rate over the last 3 years increasing by 15 percent.
     2. New York state with its neighboring states of N.J., Conn., and Pa. accounted for 64 percent of all cases of Lyme disease reported to the CDC last year.
     3. May to August are the peak months for contracting Lyme disease.
• Lyme disease when diagnosed and treated early is rarely a problem. When early 
diagnosis is missed, the manifestations can be diverse and the treatment more
complex, with some patients developing chronic symptoms with functional
impairment comparable to that caused by congestive heart failure.
• The treatment of patients with Lyme disease is currently mired in controversy due to conflicting and limited research, resulting in confusion for both patients and doctors.

The Lyme & Tick-borne Diseases Research Center will focus on clinical research aimed at developing novel therapies, basic science to unravel disease mechanisms and to identify better diagnostic tests, and education of both medical students and physicians on how to best evaluate and treat patients. This is the first such center in the United States and in its focus on the particular problems faced by patients with chronic persistent symptoms will lead the country in research to bring the light of science to many unanswered and controversial questions. 

• Two new research projects will be announced at the center opening, one a multi-institutional diagnostic research project involving Columbia University Medical Center, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, and the U.S. Department of Energy and the second involving the neuropathology of Lyme disease which includes a brain bank for autopsy specimens from patients with neurologic Lyme disease. 
• Results from a recently completed PET imaging study of chronic Lyme disease will be discussed by Columbia researchers. This work highlights ways in which functional brain imaging can be used to identify biomarkers with potentially valuable diagnostic and treatment implications for patients with chronic Lyme disease. 
• For more information on Lyme disease research at Columbia University Medical Center, visit:

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).