Tick-borne Disease Advocate Has Voice in Future Research

Alana Edwards served on review panels to select applications submitted to the Department of Defense to decide how the $5 million appropriated by Congress will be spent on future tick-borne disease research.

By gisele galoustian | 1/20/2017

Tick-borne disease advocate Alana Edwards, education and training coordinator in the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, recently participated on review panels to evaluate and select research applications submitted to the Tick-borne Disease Research Program (TBDRP) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. As a consumer reviewer, Edwards served as a full voting member along with prominent scientists, to determine how the $5 million appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2016 will be spent on future tick-borne disease research. This is the first year for this new research program, and consumer advocates and scientists worked together on this unique partnership to evaluate the scientific merit of tick-borne disease research applications.

Consumer reviewers represent the collective view of individuals who are living with tick-borne disease, patients, and family members when preparing comments on the impact and relevance of research to prevent, better diagnose, and resolve or minimize the impact of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

“It was truly an honor to be selected as one of the voices to represent the millions of Americans who are suffering from these diseases,” said Edwards, who also has been afflicted with multiple tick-borne infections, including Lyme disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease, a tick-borne disease, is the most commonly reported vector borne illness in the U.S. In 2015, it was the sixth most common nationally notifiable disease, which is heavily concentrated in the northeast and upper Midwest. Based on recent studies, the CDC estimates that approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed  with Lyme disease each year.

“The consumer reviewers on each panel were instrumental in helping the scientists understand the patient’s perspective and providing valuable insight into the potential impact of the proposed project,” said Colonel Wanda L. Salzer, M.D., director of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. “They brought with them a sense of urgency to remind everyone of the human element involved in medical research.”

Scientists applying for funding propose to conduct innovative tick-borne disease research to understand the pathogenesis of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, and to deliver innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose, and treat their manifestations. The TBDRP fills important gaps not addressed by other funding agencies by supporting groundbreaking, high-risk, high-gain research while encouraging out-of-the-box thinking.

More information about the Department of Defense TBDRP is available at: http://cdmrp.army.mil.