David Roth

Posted on 29 June 2012

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By Candace Sindelman

The Sag Harbor summer resident, co-chair of the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA), and victim of Lyme disease talks about the “TBDA Diagnostic X Prize,” a global competition to develop a fail-safe diagnostic tool for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

What inspired the TBDA to team up with the X Prize Foundation?

One of the biggest challenges for patients with Lyme disease is lack of a good diagnostic tool. As a result, people don’t get diagnosed as early as they should. We want to eradicate the disease and promote awareness, and through better diagnostic tools make a big dent in relieving human suffering that comes from the disease. We have been working with the X Prize foundation for about a year.  They were so successful with their contest to jump start the commercial space industry, taking a small amount of money and leveraging it. They now have a focus in solving other world problems. Speaking to them they recognized how much suffering and confusion has come out of this disease and developed a competition. The winning prize could be $5 million, $7 million, 10 million, I don’t know yet. But it will be a large entrepreneurial opportunity and a way [for the winner] to harness the power of the market. Dozens have already contacted us to participate since they all think they have the greatest test since sliced bread. It’s terrific, it’s great competition.

What are the challenges in constructing a competition like this?

Defining what the competition is. In our case approximately 30,000 people are being diagnosed each year in this country, and a lot more cases aren’t reported. There’s a common belief in the Lyme community that a lot more people are sick than are captured by current testing technology whether due to an individual’s immune response or time the test is given. You figure the test that wins the competition will not only capture the same 30,000 but also all the other people that are ill and not being treated.

The second hurdle is to come up with a test that has the benefit of being tested on a lot of samples. One question is how do we get enough samples of the cohort population to test diagnostic tests?

The third hurdle at the end of the competition is that the best practices are used and there is the highest quality sample set. It’s critically important for the test to work, but that is not enough. The test should work for the masses, be cost effective, accepted by the medical community and replace the current government standard for testing that is accepted by insurance. It’s ambitious, but you have to think big.

Why do you think there is less awareness about Lyme disease than other diseases?

There is often a West Coast perception that this is an East Coast disease and that is not the case. I don’t know why there hasn’t been more awareness, and that is a big part of what the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance is trying to do. The X Prize Foundation markets the issues and brings a level of credibility.  I’ve been contacting major news networks and people I know. It’s been challenging because a lot of the stories have been done before. But I think as more people are diagnosed with the illness we’ll start to hear about more stories.

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4 Responses to “David Roth”

  1. DIANNE says:

    I THINK THIS IS A FANTASTIC IDEA. MY 3 YR OLD GRANDSON, TREY WESTLAKE FROM NEWDEGATE WESTERN AUSTRALIA, HAS BEEN POSITIVELY DIAGNOSED WITH LYME DISEASE AFTER HIS BLOOD WAS SENT TO AMERICA. THE HEAD OF PRINCESS MARGARET CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL INFECTIOUS DISEASES IN PERTH WESTERN AUSTRALIA THEN HAD A BLOOD SAMPLE SENT SOMEWHERE IN AUSTRALIA. MOST PROBABLY THE EAST COAST AND OF COURSE IT CAME BACK NEGATIVE. HE HAS NOW REFERRED MY GRANDIE TO A PAEDIATRITIAN. SO MY SON AND HIS PARTNER CONTINUE TO FEEL SO FRUSTRATED WITH ANYTHING THEY TRY TO DO WITH THE AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL SYSTEM. MEANWHILE TREY CONTINUES TO SUFFER BUT HAS STARTED A COURSE OF ANTIBIOTICS, THROUGH ACCESSING A PERTH DR WHO IS LYME LITERATE – PRIVATELY OF COURSE, WELL HE IS ONTO HIS THIRD ONE NOW. YOU CANT TELL ME THAT A 3 YEAR OLD TAKING 3 DIFFERENT ANTIBIOTICS AT THE SAME TIME CAN BE GOOD FOR HIM AND THE COST OF ALL THESE MEDICATIONS AND TESTING IS ALSO NOT BEING SUPPORTED WITH THE AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL TEAM.

  2. Carol Fox says:

    Thank you for this good idea, I hope someone comes up with a reliable and medically acceptable test. Electrodermal testing, a computerized system for detecting Lyme and many other organisms and allergies, as well as receptivity to various treatments, has been extremely helpful in my treatment program. This could be the direction that should be explored. The challenge is the “medically acceptable” part. I don’t know how this testing works but I’m pretty sure the AMA would not be happy about it. Perhaps a creative and skilled researcher can find a way to prove its efficacy in terms that even the AMA can understand.

  3. Dan Wolff says:

    Hi

    I just wanted to let you know that there is finally an at-home tick testing kit that allows you to test with great accuracy the presence of the Lyme Disease bacteria in ticks. It is a great early warning tool! Please contact me at 1 855 TICK TEST, lymeticktest.com or check out the new YouTube demonstration at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdrjvFXg6DY&feature=em-share_video_user for more information.

    Dan Wolff

  4. Steve Riley PhD says:

    A few things need to be made clear to everyone.

    Number one is you do not need a immunological reaction or PCR/DNA sequencing to diagnose Babesiosis or Ehrlichiosis, the other tick-borne diseases. A good pathologist can make the diagnoses on a Wright stained blood smear.

    Lyme disease and Lyme disease-like borreliosis is challenging.
    To determine which of the many companies/individuals that say they can diagnose Borrelia burgdoferi and its sub strains, I suggest we find where the truth lies by the use of the following very simple test.

    I recommend that the CDC or any certified entity send out a panel of blind-coded simulated human plasma samples, each spiked with 100 bacterial cells per 0.1 mL of Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia miyamotoi, Borrelia hermsii, Borrelia coriaceae or an unrelated bacterium, or none of the above, to various laboratories which claim to be able to diagnose Lyme disease for a proficiency survey. The laboratories which can generate a set of correct answers must have a scientifically validated method for reliable testing.
    The X-Prize poeple should be involved with this also as they seem to have the ability to make substantial cash prizes to the winners. The fact that last year 3.3 million tests were performed to diagnose Lyme, even WITHOUT a cash prize being offered (In fact it is distasteful, at least to me, to think money needs to be involved in a endeavor of this sort) the winning entities will be overwhelmed with request for tests.

    Mr Roth, the ball is now in your court.

    Sincerely,
    Steve Riley


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