Developing a new treatment for patients with sepsis

  • Research

Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, kills more people in Ireland than heart attack, lung, colon and breast cancer combined. Newly created RCSI spin-out company Inthelia Therapeutics, is developing a potential new treatment for this serious condition.

There are almost 15,000 cases of sepsis in Ireland each year resulting in almost 3,000 deaths and a staggering 60% of all hospital deaths in Ireland are related to sepsis.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 50 million new cases of sepsis each year, with 11 million deaths and the incidence of sepsis is growing annually by 8-10%.

The signs and symptoms of sepsis are rapid onset of high temperature, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, pain, pale or mottled skin, and feeling generally very sick. Immediate hospital treatment and early intervention with antibiotics is critical to tackle this life-threatening condition.

Research by Professor Steve Kerrigan, RCSI School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences and Founder/Chief Scientific Officer of Inthelia Therapeutics has led to a promising new finding in the treatment of sepsis.

Sepsis is caused by a primary infection caused by bacteria gaining entry to the bloodstream. For example, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, appendicitis or even a simple cut, scrape or break in the skin can lead to sepsis and rapidly cause multiple organ failure, if untreated. In many cases, antibiotics are not effective due to drug resistance or delays in identifying the type of bacteria that has caused the infection.

The RCSI research indicates that non-antibiotic drug, Cilengitide, has the potential to stop the initial cause of sepsis. Preclinical research on Cilengitide in Prof. Kerrigan’s lab has revealed that it has the potential to stop all sepsis-causing pathogens from taking hold in the early stages of the condition and can also potentially stop sepsis from causing organ failure in the later stages of the condition.

Inthelia Therapeutics is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company which has been formed to commercialise RCSI intellectual property for the treatment of sepsis and COVID-19. The company is now seeking investment to fund the completion of a human clinical trial in sepsis patients.

Further research is also taking place on the impact of Cilengitide on COVID-19 after initial results indicate that it could play an important role in preventing the virus from attaching to the cells in the lungs and blood vessels, key events leading to respiratory distress and long COVID.

Professor Steve Kerrigan was awarded the Vice Chancellor Commercialisation Innovation Award at RCSI Research Day 2022 for commercialisation of his research through Inthelia Therapeutics.

Find out more about innovations from RCSI spin-out companies.

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