Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast are developing a potential revolutionary new treatment for sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), according to pre-clinical results published in Science Translational Medicine.

The novel anti-inflammatory drug, SAN101, is being developed by a team of scientists and clinicians at the School of Pharmacy and the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s, alongside colleagues at Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

The nanoparticle binds to immune cells in the body and inhibits the excessive cycle of inflammation which drives the development of sepsis and ARDS. This new approach has the potential to reduce the impact of sepsis and ARDS in acutely ill patients.

Sepsis is one of the most frequent causes of death in hospitalized patients, with an estimated 19 million cases worldwide every year and around 8 million deaths. ARDS is a frequent complication of sepsis, as the lungs can’t provide enough oxygen for the rest of the body. Up to 25% of patients with severe sepsis will develop ARDS and up to half of these patients will die, the researchers noted.

“What we have developed is an anti-inflammatory nanoparticle – a microscopic particle that binds itself to cells called ‘macrophages’, which are often found at the site of an infection. We have found that this nanoparticle essentially blocks inflammation and interrupts the chain of reactions that lead to severe sepsis and ARDS,” said professor Chris Scott from Queen’s School of Pharmacy.

Professor Scott will be presenting the development of SAN101 at the Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences of Great Britain Conference in Nottingham on September 9, 2015.

The research was funded by a major grant from the Medical Research Council awarded in 2012, following initial support from the Public Health Agency (PHA) HSC R&D Division.