UMMS infectious disease expert presents promising Lyme disease prevention research at State House

Briefing highlights progress to develop medicine to protect against Lyme

By Sarah Willey

UMass Medical School Communications

July 21, 2017
  Reps. James Cantwell (left) and Carolyn Dykema speak with Mark S. Klempner, executive vice chancellor of MassBiologics.
 

Reps. James Cantwell (left) and Carolyn Dykema speak with Mark S. Klempner, executive vice chancellor of MassBiologics

Mark S. Klempner, MD, executive vice chancellor for MassBiologics of UMass Medical School and professor of medicine, updated state legislators on Thursday, July 20, on new research into an affordable medicine that could protect the public against Lyme disease. The State House briefing, hosted by Rep. James M. Cantwell (D-Marshfield), was held as Massachusetts deals with what’s expected to be the worst tick season on record for the state.

Dr. Klempner explained that researchers at MassBiologics have identified a specific human monoclonal antibody that defends against Lyme disease. Unlike a vaccine, Lyme PrEP, a pre-exposure prophylaxis, uses a protein that specifically targets and blocks the Lyme-causing bacteria in the tick after it bites an inoculated host.

“In mice, our recent data has shown that Lyme PrEP to be 100 percent effective at protecting the host against Lyme disease for up to six months,” Klempner said.

Klempner said it would take approximately $3.25 million in funding to begin the next phase of research - a phase 1 clinical trial.

“This is a public health issue that is a priority,” Rep. Cantwell told reporters covering the briefing. “From a public policy standpoint, we have a need to find a way to fund this research.”

Cantwell represents coastal communities in Massachusetts where Lyme disease is a problem. He knows precisely why there is need for alternative treatments to fight Lyme.

“Despite knowing to take precautions, I was bitten by a tick while hiking. I was lucky to find the bulls-eye and seek treatment early on,” Cantwell said. “The information Dr. Klempner presented to us shows great progress in fighting Lyme.”

Klempner anticipates that if funding can be secured, Lyme PrEP could be available within three years, but that would need to be determined through discussions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

“Our goal is to bring this preventive treatment to the public at the lowest cost possible,” Klempner said. “We anticipate people would need one dose every year to protect them during the tick season at the cost of $200.”

Read coverage about the hearing and the research below:
Boston HeraldUMass works toward new Lyme injection
Country LivingScientists Are Developing a New Shot That Protects Against Lyme Disease
RedbookScientists Are Developing a New Shot That Protects Against Lyme Disease
Woman's DayScientists Are Developing a New Shot That Protects Against Lyme Disease
Worcester Telegram & Gazette: UMass Med School takes fight to prevent Lyme disease to the ticks

Related stories on UMassMedNow:
WBZ-TV: UMMS researchers developing preventive treatment for Lyme disease
Klempner explains Lyme disease risk in Boston Magazine
MassBiologics at UMMS developing pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent Lyme disease 
WGBH-TV’s Greater Boston: Klempner discusses promising research into a seasonal prevention for Lyme

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