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Christopher Seymour Awarded Long-Term Grant from NIH to Study Sepsis Endotypes

Thu, 10/06/2016

Sepsis is a deadly syndrome affecting more than two million American each year, but research is underway that may help to identify those patients who are most at risk for more serious outcomes, and improve the effectiveness of clinical trials by helping target enrollment.

This research, conducted by Christopher Seymour, MD, MSc, Assistant Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Emergency Medicine, will aim to identify endotypes, or biological subtypes defined by distinct pathophysiologic mechanisms and identified by corresponding biomarkers, involved in sepsis. Identifying and validating these important sub-characteristics has significant potential to save lives by providing clinicians with a better understanding of the way that the infection affects their patients, which can lead to more targeted therapies.   

The project is informed by the idea that differentiating between patients will lead to more targeted treatments, rather than the more widespread belief that sepsis therapy may be one-size-fits-all. Where the latter principle may fall short, Seymour posits, is in the fact that sepsis is an extremely complex syndrome that may not necessarily function in patients in a unified manner. Identifying endotypes of sepsis, he proposes, could unearth important distinctions in the manner in which sepsis operates, namely regarding immune response, host tolerance, cellular and tissue damage, and pathogen characteristics.

The project builds on insights on sepsis biomarkers made during Seymour’s K23 mentored career development award, which he conducted under the guidance of Derek Angus, MD, MPH, FRCP. The project will use a “light touch” and big-data approach, leveraging the EHR and the first discarded blood study at the University of Pittsburgh.

The award is classified by the NIH as an “Outstanding Investigator Award,” which typically provides long-term support to an experienced investigator with a strong record of research productivity whose project may have potential for significant results. Titled, “Sepsis endotyping using clinical and biological data,” it will be known as SENECA (Sepsis ENdotyping in Emergency CAre) during the stages of investigation in the Clinical Research Investigation and Systems Modeling of Acute Illness (CRISMA) Center. The project (#R35GM119519) will run from August 2, 2016 to May 31, 2021.