NIH gets behind new Feinstein Institute sepsis study

Protein shake: Feinstein Institute researchers are exploring the role of certain proteins in sepsis.

A five-year National Institutes of Health grant will pack the protein into a new Long Island sepsis study.

Monowar Aziz, an assistant professor at the Manhasset-based Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, will apply the $1.68 million award to his work examining protein’s role in inflammation and injury in due to sepsis, a body-wide immune system reaction to infection.

Sepsis is a sinister opponent, causing nearly half-a-million U.S. deaths annually and leaving thousands of others “profoundly disabled,” according to the Feinstein Institute, Northwell Health’s R&D mothership. There is no current treatment for the condition beyond symptom management.

But Aziz and his hefty R01 grant are targeting “cold-inducible RNA-binding protein,” an inflammatory protein the researcher believes might unlock new treatment options.

Previous research has shows that CIRP runs up the count on damaging white blood cells that cause inflammation and other complications during sepsis. The NIH-funded next steps will attempt to figure out why – and how to stop it.

Monowar Aziz: Sepsis steps.

“We plan to better understand the mechanisms that cause CIRP to increase the production of these cells,” Aziz said Tuesday, with the ultimate goal of developing a CIRP inhibitor “as a new treatment for patients with sepsis and severe lung injury,” a common side effect of sepsis inflammation.

This is not the first time the Feinstein Institute has explored the mysteries of sepsis, nor the first time the NIH has chipped in. Among other sepsis-related developments, the institute in 2017 announced a sepsis research effort in concert with Manhasset-based TheraSource LLC that earned a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

The Feinstein Institute and Northwell Health have also formed a Sepsis Task Force specifically to identify better sepsis signals and reduce diagnosis time. The task force created a protocol, including earlier administration of fluids and antibiotics, that has reduced sepsis-related mortalities at Northwell Health’s 23 hospitals by nearly 70 percent, the health system said.

Despite that progress, “available treatments are inadequate,” according to Feinstein Institute President and CEO Kevin Tracey.

“Sepsis is a lethal and common syndrome,” Tracey said in a statement. “Dr. Aziz’s research provides new insights into possible answers for new therapy for future sepsis patients.”