Government to invest in new research to tackle threat caused by sepsis

The Technology Strategy Board and the Department of Health are to invest up to £7.5 million in new research and development that aims to improve the future diagnosis, detection and management of sepsis, a life-threatening illness caused by the body overreacting to an infection.

The funding will be made available through two new collaborative R&D funding competitions.  The first competition – Multi-pathogen detection and/or simple discrimination – opens on 30 August 2011 and will see government investment in R&D of up to £5 million in collaborative R&D projects to develop point-of-care diagnostic tools to assist clinicians and health workers in the management of sepsis.  The competition also challenges consortia to develop simple devices for use in primary care that could, for example, be used in a GP’s surgery to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections and help to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics.

The second competition – Advancing biomarker use in sepsis management – opens on 26 September and up to £2.5 million will be invested in collaborative R&D to advance the effective use of biomarkers in the management of the condition.

Commenting on the new competitions Zahid Latif, the Technology Strategy Board’s Head of Healthcare, said:  “Sepsis causes around 60,000 deaths in the UK every year and costs the NHS about £2.3 billion annually.  The risk of death from severe sepsis increases 6–10% every hour from the onset of septic shock to the start of effective treatment.  There is universal agreement that there is a need for new and improved diagnostic tools to help clinicians in the management of sepsis.  The products developed will help to reduce the economic burden, death and illness from sepsis and infectious diseases and create opportunities for British companies in the huge global market for diagnostic devices.”
The Technology Strategy Board will also use the first of these competitions to pilot a planned initiative called Design Option, which aims to help businesses think more about design at the start of their research and development project.  Through the Design Option initiative, applicants will be offered free access to design mentors while they are in the early stages of developing their project proposals.  This could lead to time and cost savings, and ultimately better project outcomes.
A third funding competition – Assessing the impact of near-patient testing – will also open on 26 September.  Managed through the SBRI programme, the competition will result in investment of up to £1 million in projects to produce new and improved health economics related products, tools or capabilities to assist companies in the design and evaluation of diagnostic clinical trials.  It is envisaged that the new tools will lead to better adoption, where appropriate, by providing assessors and decision makers with high quality data on the impact of new diagnostic products.
All three competitions are part of the Technology Strategy Board-managed Detection and Identification of Infectious Agents (DIIA) Innovation Platform, which will see government investment in innovative research and development into diagnostic tests and devices that will help to cut the number of deaths and cases of illness caused by infectious agents in humans and animals, while reducing the economic burden.

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