Our research strategy

Our research priorities have been identified based on current knowledge and evidence gaps agreed by scientists, researchers, and patient groups, and on what areas we feel have the biggest potential impact for Lyme sufferers.

Over the next three years we aim to support research into:

  1. Lyme disease diagnostics – finding a more accurate test for all stages of infection.
  2. Finding effective treatments protocols for all stages of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease diagnostic testing

It’s important to be able to diagnose Lyme disease rapidly and accurately. The earlier it is treated, the better chance there is for a full recovery. The current test on the NHS is not fully reliable and cannot give an accurate result in the early stages of the disease.

We also need to be able to understand whether those who remain ill after treatment are suffering from a persistent infection, or whether this is due to another cause. Currently, there is no test for cure.

Under this priority we will consider projects which include, but are not limited to:

  1. improving the sensitivity and accuracy of the current two-tier test.
  2. Innovative new approaches to finding a different, more accurate test that does not rely solely on antibody response.

Other areas of interest relating to testing

The charity is also interested in developing testing for other tick-borne infections (co-infections) and research into the prevalence of these other infections in those who have Lyme disease.

With proper statistics on co-infections in the UK, doctors can get a better understanding of Lyme and co-infections and patients can get more appropriate treatment.

Finding effective treatment protocols

The current standard antibiotic treatment does not work for every Lyme disease patient.

Many continue to suffer from symptoms and without a test for cure available, some are diagnosed with conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia with no further investigation or avenues for improvement.

We need cost-effective treatments which cure all patients with Lyme disease.

Under this priority we will consider projects which include, but are not limited to:

  1. Identifying alternative treatments – be that antibiotics or another drug – which show effectiveness against the Borrelia bacteria. With a particular focus on those with a long term/chronic infection.
  2. Seed corn funding for replicating ideas from overseas projects that have shown promise.
  3. Investigation into understanding the Borrelia bacteria and its behaviour/pathways within the body.

Other areas of interest to the charity

We are also interested in research that develops knowledge in transmission pathways of Borrelia bacteria, e.g. sexual, congenital, breast feeding, blood transfusions, so that we can better understand the potential risks and factors of transmission.

Another area of interest is epidemiological studies which collect data on incidence, presenting clinical features, management and outcome of Lyme disease in community and hospital settings in the UK. These would help to form reliable statistics of how many people are catching Lyme, being treated and being cured, though neither of these areas form our top priorities at this time.

How we will fund research

Innovation Fund

The charity will open a call for project proposals every 12 months, aiming to give a minimum of two small project grants of up to £50,000 towards innovative approaches which address our research priorities. These will be for short term projects of around 12-18 months, and open to accredited laboratories, academic institutions and small commercial enterprises in the UK or Europe.

The aim is to build capacity within Lyme research, helping to get ideas for pilot studies off paper and in the lab, and hopefully encourage young minds into the field of Lyme research.

The charity may then consider further support to completed innovation projects which show promise in their results.

We will consider funding both salary and direct project costs.

Our Innovation Fund is currently open for applications. Visit the Fund webpage for more info.

General Project Grants

The charity is open to proposals from accredited laboratories, academic institutions and small commercial enterprises in the UK, Europe and the U.S.A for funding into research projects which meet our priorities, at a cost of £50,000 or more.

Funding can be given over 12 months to three years, depending on the project and funding pot available from the charity at the time of application.

We will support studies that facilitate and enable the progression of promising, basic research towards testing in clinical trials, and applied research with a strong, commercial potential that is likely to attract follow-on funding when the grant ends.

Funding in this area includes commissioned research and collaborations towards joint funding applications for large scale projects.

These proposals and approaches can be made on a rolling basis.

PhD Funding

The charity may consider capacity building by funding bright PhD students carrying out research into areas of Lyme disease that match our priorities.

Collaborations & Partnerships

A key part of delivering high quality research will involve working in partnership with others.

We are open to partnerships, investments and collaboration with stakeholders, other funders and charities, government bodies, commercial enterprises, research and academic institutions and patients to form life-changing research projects.

How funding decisions are made

All project proposals made will be triaged to check they match our interests and priorities, and then subject to rigorous peer review and consideration of our scientific advisory committee, to ensure that the projects we fund are credible and of the highest standard.

This research strategy will be reviewed at the end of each calendar year to ensure it is fit for purpose and it still meets the priorities of the charity in terms of outcomes for beneficiaries.

Outcomes and evaluation

By the end of 2023 we want to have:

  • Funded a minimum of 6 Innovation Fund projects
  • Funded a minimum of 3 General Project Grants
  • Developed a partnership or collaboration with a highly regarded academic institution, research facility or laboratory, working on a large, multi-year research study.
  • Have made steps towards exciting scientific discoveries in diagnostic testing and treatments.

[1] John SP Tulloch, Mike BJ Beadsworth, Roberto Vivancos, Alan D Radford, Jenny C Warner, Rob M Christley. BJGP Open 2020; 4 (3): bjgpopen20X101050.