Marking “World Sepsis Day”*, The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) announces the spin-off of a new company, Sepset Biosciences Inc. The company is developing a novel rapid diagnostic test that will enable healthcare professionals to provide earlier and more targeted treatment of sepsis – a global healthcare problem that is more common than heart attack and claims more lives than any cancer. Infectious disease testing (including sepsis) is one of the fastest growing molecular diagnostic segments representing approximately $2 billion globally per year.
Sepset’s technology, which is based on extensive and ground-breaking work led by renowned University of British Columbia (UBC) researcher Dr. Robert Hancock, is meeting a dire clinical need. Current methods to diagnose sepsis take more than 24 hours after a patient enters the emergency ward – by which time, the patient may already be well on their way towards tissue damage, organ failure, and death. For every three-hour delay in diagnosis, the rate of mortality and morbidity grows by almost 25%.
Dr. Hancock, a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and the Director of the Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity Research at UBC, explains, “We are changing the way scientists and health care professionals look at sepsis. Sepset’s blood-based test works by detecting, at the time a patient enters the hospital, a unique biomarker signature based on the body’s immune response rather than the presence of a pathogen. The results of initial clinical studies show this to be a very promising approach so we are now in the process of advancing to larger multi-centre, multi-country trials.”
For every three-hour delay in Sepsis diagnosis, the rate of mortality and morbidity grows by almost 25%
Publicly known for claiming the lives of prominent individuals such as Christopher Reeve, Patty Duke and Muhammad Ali, sepsis is the body’s toxic response to infection, and can be triggered by any type of infection. Sepsis causes the hospitalization of more than 18 million people around the world every year, including 30,000 Canadians. Approximately one in three of these patients will die due to complications related to severe sepsis. In addition to the human toll, the healthcare costs are staggering, accounting for over $20 billion annually in the US alone.
“Clinicians desperately need a more accurate and rapid tool to diagnose sepsis,” says Dr. John Boyd, an emergency room physician at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital and advisor to Sepset. “Sepsis is complex and difficult to diagnose because there is no typical presentation; the signs and symptoms are highly variable. This test will help physicians diagnose the infection sooner which is critical to effective treatment and better patient outcomes.”
Gordon McCauley, Interim President and CEO of CDRD adds, “By bringing together Dr. Hancock’s leading scientific expertise and CDRD’s commercialization and business development capabilities, we have been able to accelerate the advancement of this technology along the commercial pathway, and create an exciting new Canadian life sciences company focused on an area of major unmet medical need. Such collaboration is the cornerstone of CDRD’s mandate and model, and exemplifies the potential global impact it can lead to.”