New ICAMs researcher, Professor James Leiper, involved in sepsis drug development

Critical Pressure Ltd, a UK pharmaceutical company co-founded by UofG Professor James Leiper, announced today that it has completed a £10m investment to develop a new drug to help patients in intensive care with severe sepsis. 

Critical Pressure was founded by Professor James Leiper, who is at the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, and Dr Simon Lambden, a Clinical Lecturer in Intensive Care Medicine at Cambridge University. Critical Pressure has been set up to develop CPL001, a chemical compound that inhibits an enzyme called DDAH1.

Sepsis is caused by a serious bacterial infection, usually with bacteria resistant to antibiotics. As the immune system fights the infection it also causes damage to the vital organs.

Around 30% of patients with severe sepsis die, despite treatment in intensive care units.  Over 37,000 people die from sepsis in the UK alone each year – more than the number of lives lost to breast and lung cancer combined.  It is also a major demand on healthcare resources, estimated to cost the NHS more than £1billion a year.

Professor Leiper said: “Inhibiting DDAH1 prevents the dramatic loss of blood pressure that often accompanies sepsis. The body naturally produces a chemical, nitric oxide, that kills bacteria but also lowers blood pressure. Blocking DDAH1 prevents the drop in blood pressure, without losing the ability to fight the infection.”

Dr Ron Daniels, Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, a charity dedicated to improving outcomes for patients with sepsis, who will join the Advisory Board for Critical Pressure said: “Despite being one of the commonest causes of death in the Western world, there are still no drugs at all with a specific license for sepsis. It's a hidden killer, virtually ignored by the global pharmaceutical industry.”

The £10m investment was by Medicxi, a life sciences-focused investment firm.

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First published: 15 November 2017