Sepsis Prevention Research Moves Forward

DARPA began it last fall and now seeks to integrate previously awarded projects. The goal is "a single device capable of removing at least 90 percent of sepsis-causing material from a patient within 24 hours."

DARPA is moving ahead with its effort to produce a new tool for preventing sepsis, the blood infection that, combined with shock, has a mortality rate near 50 percent among soldiers wounded in combat. While current methods to identify and treat sepsis may take 48 hours or more, which causes hundreds of preventable deaths, the research begun last fall by the Dialysis-Like Therapeutics (DLT) program sought to demonstrate components for a portable device capable of sensing and removing at least 90 percent of sepsis-causing targets in the blood (e.g., bacteria, viruses, toxins, and cytokines) within 24 hours.

DARPA on May 8 announced a solicitation to integrate the previously awarded DLT projects. The potential device "would differ from kidney dialysis devices by potentially enabling continuous, early sensing based on the entire blood volume, removing the need for anticoagulants, and facilitating label-free separation of multiple targets within the blood," according to the agency.

"DLT represents a revolutionary approach in the treatment of bloodborne illness," said Dr. Timothy Broderick, DARPA program manager. "If successful, this technology could be used to treat sepsis faster and more effectively, saving lives and reducing treatment costs. In 2009 alone, more than 1,500 active duty service members were diagnosed with sepsis. DLT may eliminate the need for expensive culture-based identification methods and extended hospital stays. And, as the technology matures, we believe the device could be adapted to diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses."

DLT is a technology demonstration; human trials will not be funded. "However, proposers are encouraged to submit plans for testing that would result in an investigational device exemption approval from the Food and Drug Administration," according to DARPA, which said FDA will be engaged with the DLT team to review proposals and participate in proposers' day meetings and government review boards.

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