A new experimental drug to treat sepsis has now entered the next stage of clinical trials in patients in Australia after successfully completing Phase 1a trials in healthy volunteers, reports Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics.

The sepsis drug candidate, co-invented by researchers led by Professor Mark von Itzstein AO at the Institute for Glycomics and Professor Christopher Parish at The Australian National University (ANU), was licensed to China Grand Pharma’s Australian-based subsidiary Grand Medical Limited who is currently developing the drug candidate.

“From an outstanding collaboration with Professor Parish, his team at ANU and others, it’s exciting to see our innovative experimental drug, STC3141, now being trialled on sepsis patients. It had previously passed safety and tolerability measures in Phase 1a clinical trials,” Professor von Itzstein, Director of the Institute for Glycomics and co-inventor of the technology, said.

Published today in Nature Communications, researchers at the Institute for Glycomics used a sugar-based approach to synthesise the small-molecule experimental drug, STC3141, which can treat sepsis by reversing organ damage.

“Sepsis is known to affect millions of hospitalised patients across the world each year and occurs when the body’s immune response to an infection attacks and injures its own tissues and organs,” Professor von Itzstein said.

“When sepsis is not recognised early and managed promptly, it can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failure and death.”

Dr Chih-Wei Chang, a research scientist at the Institute for Glycomics, was a joint first author on the study.

“We have been able to synthesise the experimental drug at large scale using innovative chemistry, that can be translated to an industry-scale setting,” Dr Chang said.

It is estimated that in 2017 there were 48.9 million cases and 11 million sepsis-related deaths worldwide, which accounted for almost 20% of all global deaths. That year, almost half of all global sepsis cases occurred in young children.

“The translational outcomes of the sepsis experimental drug candidate would be of global magnitude and would significantly reduce the burden on the healthcare system in managing sepsis infections,” Professor von Itzstein said.

“We look forward to monitoring the progress of the current trials in patients who are presently suffering from this debilitating disease.”