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Promising new sepsis treatment boosted by grant

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A promising new drug for sepsis is on the horizon thanks to new charity funding, which could help take the laboratory discovery into the clinic.

Sepsis currently leads to more than 100,000 people being admitted to hospital in the UK each year, of which over a third die.

“After over a decade of hard work in the lab, it’s exciting to see this promising drug is getting closer to helping thousands of people a year”

James Leiper

Antibiotics can effectively treat the infection but the body’s response to the infection can cause dangerously low blood pressure, organ failure and death.

The British Heart Foundation has given funding to researchers at the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre.

It will cover the costs of further studies to find different forms of a drug candidate they are developing to treat the effects of sepsis, one of which could then be taken into clinical trials.

Early funding for the research, awarded back in 2002, supported laboratory research where the discovery was made of the potential of a drug called L-257.

It works by reducing the production of the chemical nitric oxide. During sepsis, high nitric oxide levels can cause dangerously low blood pressure and ultimately organ failure.

In animals L-257 has been shown to improve survival and reduce organ failure during sepsis. The researchers are confident it will be safe and effective at treating sepsis in people.

Dr James Leiper, who is leading the new research, said: “Developing treatments for sepsis has been called the ‘graveyard for pharmaceutical companies’, because people with sepsis are often in a highly unstable condition.

“This can make it very difficult to detect whether a treatment is working,” he said. “Therefore, clinical trials for sepsis treatments often end up being very large and very expensive.

“After over a decade of hard work in the lab, it’s exciting to see this promising drug is getting closer to helping thousands of people a year,” he added.

“We can help make lab research, like Dr Leiper’s which we’ve funded over many years, attractive enough for pharmaceutical companies to take on that risk and cost”

Peter Weissberg

The charity has introduced funding streams called Translational Awards to support the pre-clinical development of new cardiovascular medicines and technologies so they are attractive for follow-on investment.

The award will help to bridge the funding gap between promising innovations and the clinic with the aim of accelerating advances in cardiovascular science for patient benefit.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s not realistic for charities to take on the costs and risk associated with taking a new drug or test through clinical trials.

“But we can help make lab research, like Dr Leiper’s which we’ve funded over many years, attractive enough for pharmaceutical companies to take on that risk and cost,” he added.

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