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Our Annual Policy Challenge

Each year, our collaborators and co-applicants assemble a unique case study based on real-world public health challenges involving FWVZ pathogens. These case studies form the basis of our Annual Policy Challenge, a year-long project culminating in a five-day all-expenses-paid retreat.

We challenge our PhD trainees, working in interdisciplinary teams, to pitch innovative policy solutions and outreach strategies to a panel of leading stakeholders in government and industry. Our Master’s trainees are then tasked with promoting these solutions, emulating accessible scientific media coverage, and generating public interest in FWVZ pathogens.

Throughout the retreat, our trainees will receive coaching and mentorship from experienced leaders in health and public policy while they put the finishing touches on their policy solutions and media coverage. Our retreat peaks on its final day, when each PhD team will present a 30-minute pitch to our panel of expert judges. PhD trainees should be prepared to answer questions and receive constructive feedback for professional development while our Master’s trainees receive feedback on their media coverage.

The 2023-2024 Challenge

An effective human vaccine against Lyme disease has existed since the mid 1990's. However, the anti-vaccine movement and subsequent disappointing vaccine uptake led the manufacturer to discontinue its commercial production. Thousands of people are now needlessly suffering from Lyme disease and symptoms associated with post-Lyme disease. While new vaccines are currently in stage three clinical testing, some fear they may meet the same fate. What public policies need to be put in place in Canada to ensure access to safe and effective vaccines against Lyme disease for those who want to be immunized?

Suggested Readings 

Our subject-matter experts have assembled a handful of insightful articles to give our trainees additional context for this year's Challenge. We suggest that our trainees review our suggested reading to start building their policy pitches on the right foot.

The year that shaped the outcome of the OspA vaccine for human Lyme disease

Raymond J. Dattwyler and Maria Gomes-Solecki

The expansion of Lyme borreliosis endemic areas and the corresponding increase of disease incidence have opened the possibility for greater acceptance of a vaccine. In this perspective article, we discuss the discovery of outer surface protein A (OspA) of B. burgdorferi, and the subsequent pre-clinical testing and clinical trials of a recombinant OspA vaccine for human Lyme disease. We also discuss in detail the open public hearings of the FDA Lyme disease vaccine advisory panel held in 1998 where concerns of molecular mimicry induced autoimmunity to native OspA were raised, the limitations of those studies, and the current modifications of recombinant OspA to develop a multivalent subunit vaccine for Lyme disease.

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