Bay Area Lyme Foundation ELA Winner Uses Metabolic Modeling to Predict 77 Unique Drug Targets in Lyme Disease Bacterium

Results will help inform future research and development of new Lyme disease therapeutics

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif., Oct. 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the US, today announced the findings of a study identifying new essential gene and enzyme drug targets in Lyme disease bacterium, which resulted, in-part, from a grant provided to Peter Gwynne, one of Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s 2022 Emerging Leader Award (ELA) winners. Published in the peer-reviewed journal mSystems, the study uses the most comprehensive metabolic modeling to date to predict 77 unique drug targets in Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease — a condition affecting nearly 500,000 new patients annually.

“Lyme disease is often treated using long courses of antibiotics, which can cause side effects for patients and risks the evolution of antimicrobial resistance. Our research supplies the blueprint and scaffolding to build better Lyme disease therapeutics that do not have off-target effects for patients,” said Peter Gwynne, PhD, lead author on the study, research assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, and Emerging Leader Award winner of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “Many of the 77 genes and enzymes predicted as essential represent candidate targets for the development of novel antiborrelial drug development.”

Current clinical guidelines recommend treatment of Lyme borreliosis with broad-spectrum antibiotics, which can pose risks to the patient’s microbiome. The bacterium that causes Lyme disease is extremely host-dependent, with a small genome and limited metabolism—making it an excellent candidate for the development of targeted, narrow-spectrum antimicrobials.

In the study, the researchers used in silico genome-scale metabolic computer modeling to construct a map of B. burgdorferi metabolism. This map was used to predict essential genes and enzymes that can be used as drug targets. Gwynne and the Tufts University School of Medicine research team validated these targets by repurposing existing drugs that kill B. burgdorferi in culture. While these drugs are not viable treatment options themselves, they provide a blueprint for future novel drug development.

“There is a desperate need for therapeutics that can more effectively and precisely treat Lyme disease,” said Linda Giampa, executive director of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “We were pleased to fund Dr. Gwynne as an Emerging Leader Award winner and research like his gives us hope that more targeted therapies will be developed to help clinicians treat Lyme patients effectively.”

In the future, these targeted drugs could also be used prophylactically by high-risk individuals or to reduce infections by eradication of Lyme disease from its wild animal reservoirs.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s Emerging Leader Awards have been given annually since 2014 to promising scientists who have identified a defined approach to improved diagnostics or therapeutics for Lyme disease. Scientists or clinicians interested in applying for the 2024 Emerging Leader Award or learning about the other funding opportunities that Bay Area Lyme Foundation offers throughout the year, should visit

About Lyme disease
The most common vector-borne infectious disease in the US, Lyme disease is a potentially disabling infection caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of an infected tick to people and pets, and may also be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby. If caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated, but it is commonly misdiagnosed due to lack of awareness and inaccurate diagnostic tests. There are approximately 500,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, according to statistics released in 2018 by the CDC. As a result of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, up to two million Americans may be suffering from the impact of its debilitating long-term symptoms and complications, according to Bay Area Lyme Foundation estimates. 

About Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national organization committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, is the leading public not-for-profit sponsor of innovative Lyme disease research in the US. A 501c3 organization based in Silicon Valley, Bay Area Lyme Foundation collaborates with world-class scientists and institutions to accelerate medical breakthroughs for Lyme disease. It is also dedicated to providing reliable, fact-based information so that prevention and the importance of early treatment are common knowledge. A pivotal donation from The LaureL STEM FUND covers overhead costs and allows for 100% of all donor contributions to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation to go directly to research and prevention programs. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit or call us at 650-530-2439.

Media contact:
Kristin Jutras
TellMed Strategies
908.947.0500 x719