Thank you to everyone who helped promote awareness of The Quiet Epidemic global impact campaign by sharing CanLyme’s event on social media, watching the documentary, making a donation or participating in the live Q&A panel discussion. Enjoy the highlights of Justin Wood, Founder and CEO of Geneticks, from the live Q&A panel discussion held online May 28 2023.
“I was tested through the Canadian testing and it came back negative. I was then tested through the International testing and it came back positive. That opened this can of worms that maybe this was Lyme disease and coinfections and from there, having that diagnosis of what became a long and difficult treatment path over the next three years.”Justin Wood
- Janet Sperling Entomologist, President, CanLyme
- Jim Wilson Past President and Founder, CanLyme
- Dr. Sarah Keating, Anatomic Pathologist, CanLyme Board Member
- Justin Wood Founder and CEO of Geneticks
- Elizabeth May MP, current Leader of the Green Party of Canada
- Q&A panel FAQ summary – The Quiet Epidemic
Justin has a Lyme story that led him to actually take action and start his company, Geneticks. Justin, can you tell us a little bit about that?
My story started over ten years ago, when I was at university. I was an active athlete and an academic. I played on the university soccer team and in the summers I would go tree planting, where I was exposed to lots of different insects and arachnids. I started to notice around that time there were some changes in my health that I wrote off as getting older, despite being 20 years old… I started to really feel some drastic, drastic health changes. Most were neurological, related.
I was about to start a PhD at the University of Calgary in neuroscience and just before I had been set to start that, my health completely dropped off in what felt like an instant. I went from being somebody who was coping with these issues to someone who couldn’t do anything at all. I couldn’t walk, read, use the computer, or be in a room with more than one person at a time. I couldn’t really do anything to take care of myself in any appreciable way. I couldn’t work anymore, I had to drop out of the PhD program and I had no idea what was going on. Lyme disease wasn’t even on my radar but as something I would encounter in my life. As these issues started to become more and more severe, I became increasingly debilitated and it spread from just neurological issues to really profound, multi-system issues. Every system of my body was being affected. I had no idea what was going on and was bounced around the medical system for the next 3 years.
I was tested through the Canadian testing and it came back negative. I was then tested through the International testing and it came back positive. That opened this can of worms that maybe this was Lyme disease and coinfections and from there, having that diagnosis of what became a long and difficult treatment path over the next three years.
Over that period of time, I slowly started to improve until I was in a good enough place to start trying to get back to some degree of life. I thought, ‘Okay, I am a scientist, I have the education and background to become involved in this fight in a meaningful way, what can I do? I wasn’t ready to get back into academia but thought maybe I can do something on the industry front that might help. Through my journey I had become well connected with a lot of physicians and researchers and for me, what felt like a low hanging fruit was that there was no accessible way to determine if you have been bit by a tick, whether that tick carried any of these pathogens that might make you really sick. I thought ‘that seems like a really obvious entry point. Maybe this is something I can jump into?’ In early 2018, I started Geneticks, which is a private tick testing company. Since then, we’ve grown to testing a couple hundred ticks a year to thousands of ticks every year, testing up to 18 tick-borne pathogens.
Because we are receiving thousands of ticks from all across Canada, it puts us in a unique position to perform surveillance on the spread of ticks and tick-borne diseases in Canada. We look through where the ticks came from, what species they were, what pathogens they were carrying and are able to form statistics, place them on a map and publish them on our website. We hope it provides a useful tool to people to judge what their exposure might be in different areas and overtime see how associated pathogens are changing.