Penn State helps East Stroudsburg bring Lyme-Aid innovation to consumers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A kit that could lead to quicker detection of Lyme disease has moved from a college laboratory to store shelves thanks to guidance from Penn State’s Office of Technology Management.

The first consumer product to emerge from a partnership between Penn State and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), is the Lyme-Aid Diagnostic Tick Testing Kit, which provides a tick removal tool and the means to mail the specimen for lab analysis.

Lyme-Aid grew out of East Stroudsburg’s Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory, and Penn State assisted with intellectual property management and technology transfer activities, according to Ronald Huss, director of the Office of Technology Management. Those services included negotiating the license agreement, a vital step for a product’s long-term success.

“PASSHE wants to support and encourage research activities, however these institutions can’t justify the investment in creating their own technology transfer offices,” Huss said. “Our fees for the universities are modest. Our primary motivation has been to be a good neighbor and help Pennsylvania research reach market, and the arrangement is working well.”

Under the agreement reached in 2008 with the 14 PASSHE universities, Penn State charges a fee for services, but does not share in a percentage of the profits.

“All the revenue that’s generated can go back into the state system of higher education,” he said.

According to Huss, PASSHE institutions submit about one project a month to the University, where four technology licensing officers analyze each innovation’s commercial value.

“Not every opportunity goes forward,” he said. “Not everything is patentable, not everything is marketable.”

East Stroudsburg graduate student Melissa Shaw invented Lyme-Aid, winning a $3,000 state grant in 2010 to make a prototype through a business plan competition on her campus. Paperwork for Lyme-Aid reached Penn State in 2011, and market research revealed public interest, Huss said. Rather than seek medical attention after Lyme disease symptoms appear, those who have been bit -- or who remove a tick from a pet – can use Lyme-Aid to be more proactive and learn within three to five days whether there’s a risk of contracting the disease.

Kits are sold in single-, three- and 12-packs with prices starting at $5.99. A lab test costs $39.95. Kits are available online at www.lymeaidkit.com and in 20 states at more than 100 locations, mostly at farm supply and hardware stores. Kits are manufactured and sold by the Connecticut-based Garrett Hewitt International, a leading worldwide supplier that mainly works with the cosmetic industry.

“The goal is to license our patent rights to a company that has the motivation and the financial resources to take that technology and continue to develop it into a product or service that could be ready for sale,” Huss said.

Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks and symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and skin rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest data from the CDC indicates there were about 24,365 cases of Lyme disease in the United States in 2010. Lyme disease, if not aggressively treated early in the infection, can result in severe, debilitating neurological symptoms. In 2011, 96 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states, with Pennsylvania being one of them.

"With all the misinformation about LYME disease and the missed diagnosis, the only thing that all medical professionals seem to agree upon is that if you can treat the disease in the first 10 to 14 days, you can prevent the disease from attacking your body,” said Joe Orloski, Garrett Hewitt spokesman. “The only existing early warning tool that can provide information in that time frame is Lyme-Aid.”

The good news is that most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Lyme-Aid uses a test that targets the DNA of the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. Through the use of a special dye and ultraviolet light, lab technicians determine if a tick carries the bacteria. Whether positive or negative, Lyme-Aid encourages customers to discuss the results with a doctor or veterinarian.

Penn State also recently assisted PASSHE with obtaining two patents, according to Angela Smith-Aumen, director of sponsored programs for PASSHE. One patent involves a breakthrough at West Chester University involving palladium complexes and their catalyst effect in polymerization -- a process of an atom or small molecule coming together in a chemical reaction to form three-dimensional networks or chains. The other patent, for Lock Haven University, involves a construction method for polymer light-emitting diodes that eliminates a step in the manufacturing process, reducing the cost of production.

“We are looking forward to extending our relationship with Penn State,” Smith-Aumen said.“It has provided resources to our faculty inventors that we could not otherwise provide. Those who have received counsel from Penn State have vastly improved their technology disclosures and further targeted their research. Our inventors respond positively to the feedback by focusing on their research and improving their patent applications.”

Contacts: 

Ronald Huss

Work Phone: 
814-863-5988

Director, Office of Technology Management

Last Updated April 24, 2013