In 2010, Melissa Shaw was an East Stroudsburg University graduate biology student with a big idea. With the support and resources of ESU’s Research and Economic Development team, Melissa developed that idea into a marketed product currently available in 100 stores in 20 states—and soon to be launched at several major retailers this spring. The product, Lyme-Aid, is a $5.99 pocket-sized diagnostic kit for Lyme disease. The kit includes a special tool for tick removal, a plastic bag, a form, and an addressed envelope to transport the tick to the ESU testing center. The additional $39.95 testing fee results in the purchaser’s knowledge of whether or not the tick bears lyme disease. Melissa lives in East Stroudsburg and is currently working at Sanofi Pasteur with plans to pursue a doctoral degree in the near future.
LF: What was the impetus for your pursuing the Lyme-Aid venture?
MS: As a graduate student at ESU, I entered ESU’s Business Plan Competition in December 2010 with just the idea for Lyme-Aid and wound up winning first place, which really got the ball rolling!
LF: How did the concept of Lyme-Aid come to you?
MS: It came from interactions with concerned members of the community, in particular parents of children affected by Lyme disease. The Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory at ESU has performed tick testing for several years, and I envisioned a way to make it more accessible and also have an educational aspect, as there is so much misinformation about Lyme disease.
LF: What role did ESU have in helping develop and market this product?
MS: ESU played a major role: from encouraging me to enter the idea into the competition, to helping secure grant funding for product development and subsequently overseeing the licensing agreement that allowed us to bring the product to market. I would encourage any current students to utilize the great resources that ESU provides for aspiring entrepreneurs.
LF: Who else was instrumental in helping you develop Lyme-Aid?
MS: Everyone who heard about it, from local business owners to state representatives, really took an interest in what we were trying to do. Dr. Jane Huffman, my faculty mentor and co-founder of Lyme-Aid, helped every step of the way. In addition, if it were not for the entire Research and Economic Development team at ESU, Mary Frances Postupack in particular, Lyme-Aid would still just be an idea.
LF: How much time commitment does Lyme-Aid demand from you now?
MS: The reigns have been handed over; however, I continue to stay involved in the commercialization process I stayed on at ESU and the Northeast Wildlife DNA Lab for about a year after graduating to help launch Lyme-Aid, which we did officially in November, and I just left the company in December. Now, distribution and sales are handled by the company who licensed Lyme-Aid, Garrett Hewitt International. It can also be purchased on the website or right in downtown Stroudsburg at Dunkelberger’s Sports Outfitter.
Written by Karen Tetor
Photos by Stephen Lippay