In Brief

  • Challenge: SFI Future Innovator Prize 2018
  • Challenge Type: SFI Future Innovator Prize
  • Status: Complete

The Challenge

Sepsis is a global epidemic.  With an estimated 30 million cases each year worldwide, sepsis causes 1 death every 3- 4 seconds.  While a patient with sepsis is around 5 times more likely to die than a patient who has suffered a heart attack or stroke, sepsis is one of the most common, least-recognized illnesses in both the developed and developing world. 

Through engagement with key stakeholders the specific challenges identified for sepsis patients are: 

  • Sepsis is not recognised, detected and diagnosed early enough. Sepsis screening is disconnected from diagnosis and treatment because current clinical diagnosis using Blood Culture requires a centralised lab, is too slow and lacks accuracy (55-65%) – leading to antibiotic overuse, antimicrobial resistance and increased mortality risk; 
  • Time is critical: every hour’s delay in optimum antibiotic treatment increases mortality risk by 8%, Broad-spectrum antibiotics have a 30% failure rate. 

Delayed sepsis diagnosis results in patient mortality, morbidity and excess health care costs: 

  • Most expensive condition to treat – approximately $32.5bn each year in the US and EU combined; 
  • Number one hospital expense accounting for ~30% of all hospital deaths; 
  • Rapid sepsis diagnosis is needed greatest in ICU where Sepsis is fatal for 30-40% of patients; 
  • Approximately 60% of Sepsis episodes are diagnosed in the ED (~ 3.9m cases in the US). 

There is an unmet clinical need for a near patient, rapid diagnostic test to enable physicians to diagnose Blood Stream Infection and administer the optimum antibiotic rapidly (<1 hour). 

The Solution

SepTec addresses major Societal Challenges in global health, mortality, demographic change and wellbeing.  By addressing the critical issues of time and accuracy of sepsis diagnosis, SepTec will help clinicians with diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of sepsis reducing mortality rates, hospital stays, recovery times and increase survival rates.  It combines screening and pathogen detection in one compact, near-patient instrument that will detect Sepsis causing bacteria in whole blood within 15 minutes. Not only will SepTec improve patient outcomes, it will reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics that leads to the proliferation of antibiotic resistant pathogens. 

By being near-patient SepTec will reduce the need for large, high-cost and expert intensive labs and puts timely decision-making in the hands of clinicians.  SepTec’s low-cost, ease-of-use and portability will also provide new access to Sepsis testing in low-income countries who carry the biggest burden of Sepsis, yet where large labs, complex technology and blood-culture testing are not realistic or viable. 

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The Team

  • Dr Elaine Spain, Analytical Chemistry, DCU 
  • Dr Kellie Adamson, Diagnostics & Therapeutics and Biomaterials Science, DCU 
  • Prof Gerald Curley, Sepsis lead in the RCSI Network of Hospitals, Beaumont Hospital 
photograph of Dr Elaine Spain, Dr Kellie Adamson, Fiona Slevin, Professor Ger Curley
From left to right: Dr Elaine Spain, Dr Kellie Adamson, Fiona Slevin, Professor Ger Curley