By all accounts this has not been an unusually bad year for tick-borne illnesses on the Island. The dry cool summer may have helped — not just in keeping the tick population down, but in keeping hikers and gardeners more fully covered when venturing outdoors.

Most of us now know that wearing protective clothing is one good way to protect against Lyme disease and the half-dozen other tick-borne diseases present in worrisome numbers on the Vineyard. Using insect repellent and checking oneself and one’s pets carefully for ticks after a walk in the woods are also recommended.

Under a grant totaling a quarter million dollars over five years from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, a program administered by the six Island boards of health has focused on public education and field research directed at prevention of tick-borne diseases. The Vineyard has among the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the state, and Massachusetts ranks among the top states nationally for several tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease and babesiosis.

And while the Tick-Borne Illness Prevention program deserves credit for raising awareness of the problem, its efforts have been limited by its modest funding. So much more needs to be done.

With the grant a year away from expiring, a new plan to create a Vineyard Center for Clinical Research as part of the walk-in medical clinic in Vineyard Haven founded by Dr. Michael Jacobs holds promise for continuing and expanding on the program’s valuable work.

Michael Loberg, chairman of the Tisbury board of health, a retired chemist and a catalyst behind the Tick-Borne Illness Prevention program, earlier this month acquired Vineyard Medical Services from Dr. Jacobs and changed its name to Vineyard Medical Care.

While Mr. Loberg intends to keep the patient-centric function of the clinic, his plan also includes adding a research and testing facility that will begin by focusing on tick-borne diseases and, in particular, on better ways to detect and treat them. He has hired Lena Prisco, the laboratory director at the hospital, to run medical operations.

In an interview this month with the Gazette, Ms. Prisco noted that there is an unmet need on the Island to serve patients with Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, which also include tularemia, anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“And there is a gap in diagnostics for the disease which, though not inaccurate, are highly variable because they are based on people’s individual responses to Lyme,” she said. “A better test would find the Lyme bacteria itself.”

Today people who suspect they may have Lyme disease are routinely treated prophylactically with Doxycycline, even before the disease is confirmed. Better, quicker diagnoses could ensure that the right treatment is given and enable more targeted follow-up. Mr. Loberg says he’d like to focus on alternative therapies as well.

The new research center will need to rely on grants and partnerships, but Mr. Loberg noted in an interview this week that he has received a lot of interest from researchers who want to do fieldwork and conduct clinical trials relating to tick-borne illnesses.

The addition of an Island-based center dedicated to health science research would be a welcome development in any case, but one that turns the prevalence of tick-borne ailments here on its head and makes it a boon for researchers is also a compelling idea.