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Highly-sensitive, rapid and low cost plasmonic assay platform for Lyme disease diagnosis

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R41AI167161-01A1
Agency Tracking Number: R41AI167161
Amount: $259,613.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIAID
Solicitation Number: PA21-262
Solicitation Year: 2021
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-08-12
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2023-07-31
Small Business Information
East Hartford, CT 06108-3646
United States
DUNS: 616818738
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 (860) 528-9737
Business Contact
Phone: (860) 528-9737
Research Institution
ALBANY, NY 12203-3640
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

Project Summary/Abstract
Lyme disease (LD) is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States and represents a
considerable diagnostic challenge. 1-3 The current benchmark for LD diagnosis is the standard two-tiered test
(STTT), although the modified two-tier test (MTTT) is rapidly becoming an acceptable alternative. 6 These
assays are highly specific but have poor sensitivity, especially early in the infection. 6, 7
Traditional testing is limited by each patientandapos;s heterogenous immune response to Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb)
antigens. While the paired ELISAs of the MTTT are sensitive and simple to perform, some patients respond
weakly to screening reagents. The STTT addresses variation in humoral response by combining an initial
ELISA with a confirmatory IgG/IgM Western Blot (WB), yet WB sensitivity is modest against any single antigen.
This is especially true with IgM results, which also lack the specificity enhancement associated with class
switching. 8 Given these limitations, the ideal serologic assay will combine features of ELISA and WB, but will
provide quantitative and specific results against all major LD antigens. Using current technologies, this
approach is cost prohibitive.
Ciencia Inc. has developed a low-cost, highly-sensitive, fluorescence-based assay platform that supports
exactly this type of quantitative multi-antigen serologic Lyme assay. 4, 9, 10 Dr. Cady at SUNY Poly has used our
grating-coupled fluorescent plasmonics (GC-FP) assay platform to define antibody responses against a suite of
Bb antigens. This preliminary work demonstrates superior sensitivity/specificity compared to STTT (90%/100%
vs 60%/100%; n=34 validated samples) and an earlier time to result. Our approach offers a linear response
across the full dynamic range, a rapid time to result, low reagent costs. Antigen spots may be added for a
negligible cost, so a broader tickborne disease (TBD) panels could be performed for the price of one ELISA.
With this Phase I STTR, Ciencia will partner with Dr. Cady (SUNY Polytechnic Institute) and Dr. Strle
(Wadsworth Center) to build upon our preliminary self-funded exploration of Lyme serodiagnostics. We aim to
validate our preliminary results using a larger set of well-characterized LD samples and appropriate controls
from the CDC and NY State DoH, including an estimate of time to positivity using samples collected
longitudinally. In parallel, Ciencia aims to improve sample handling and overall ease of use by implementing a
cartridge-based system and automated processing that will make GC-FP a viable alternative to methods such
as the STTT and MTTT, both of which are cumbersome and time consuming. The ultimate goal is to provide a
rapid, easy-to-use, and highly accurate test that can be used outside traditional clinical laboratories. Based on
the success of Phase I, the Phase II effort would optimize the test for diagnosis of Lyme disease caused by
European Borrelia strains and expand it to other tickborne diseases. Phase II would also permit design
refinements and initiation of the FDA approval process.Project Narrative
Lyme Disease diagnosis is hindered by low titers of clinically relevant antibodies early in infection and
complex multi-tier testing protocols. With this project, Ciencia and collaborators respond to the
“Notice of Special Interest: Advancing Research for Tickborne Diseases” by further validating our
Lyme serodiagnostics assay and by developing an easy-to-use system for sample handling and data
interpretation. Through partnership with SUNY Polytechnic Institute and the Wadsworth Center (NY
State Dept. of Health), Ciencia aims to develop a next generation assay platform that can bring rapid,
low-cost, easy-to-use, and high-quality diagnostics outside traditional testing sites.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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