The Definitive Blog

Could a new sepsis treatment lead to fewer deaths and lower costs?


A Boston startup, GoodSIRS, has designed a device that filters blood to prevent organ failure as a result of sepsis. The device differs from traditional dialysis by targeting and removing the specific cytokines in the blood that trigger the immune response. GoodSIRS recently won the MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations Prize for this innovative approach.

Sepsis is caused when a blood infection causes an increase in cytokines, a protein in the blood, which then triggers a systemic inflammatory response. Sepsis has the potential to cause tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.

According to a 2014 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, sepsis is a contributing factor to as many as half of all deaths in U.S hospitals. With that, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that roughly 250,000 Americans die each year from sepsis.

Sepsis is a serious condition that requires medical treatment. Depending on the severity of the case, treatment could involve antibiotics, IVs, respiration, and dialysis. Dialysis is typically used when the kidneys are affected, as the kidneys help to filers any harmful waste from the blood. But traditional dialysis can’t discriminate between harmful and beneficial molecules in the blood. GoodSIRS argues that this makes the process inefficient, and in some cases can even lead to further complications.

To conquer the problem, GoodSIRS constructed chemical agents called antibody maytansinoid conjugates (AMCs) to modify antibodies to bind to a single cytokine. As they describe it, “The patient’s blood is filtered when the patient overexpresses a particular cytokine. When blood flows through, only that cytokine is removed from the flow. The AMC is removed when the cytokine returns to basal concentrations.” This filtration process can be completed in less than an hour – a lifesaving process for those fighting sepsis.

GoodSIRS’s device, a cartridge containing AMCs, can be added to existing blood filtering equipment that is already used in intensive care units across the country – making for a smooth transition to this new technology. The device has already gone through preclinical trials.

As an added benefit, GoodSIRS claims that their device also has the ability to cut down the costs of ICU stays and other more expensive sepsis treatments. The company estimates that their device could shave as much as $3.3 billion off the cost of sepsis treatment.

Time will tell if this startup will make a big enough impact to refine the sepsis treatment process used by hospitals, leading to fewer sepsis-related deaths and a lower sepsis treatment cost.

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