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Molecular Diagnosis and Risk Stratification of Sepsis (MARS)
Principal Investigator Prof. Dr. Tom van der Poll (Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam)
CTMM Program manager: Henny Bruinewoud
Sepsis is a major and increasing cause of in-hospital morbidity and mortality, in terms of hospital admissions in the Netherlands accounting for patient numbers comparable to those for breast and lung cancer. The mortality rate associated with septic shock (i.e. patients with sepsis complicated by strongly reduced blood pressure) is as high as 45%. There is therefore an urgent need to improve diagnosis and therapy planning for sepsis.
The MARS project aims to generate tools that provide rapid and accurate information about an individual patient suffering from sepsis, including which microorganism is responsible for the infection and the severity and stage of the patient’s immune response. These tools should be easy to use, at or close to the patient’s bedside, and should provide rapid information to the physician about how to treat each individual patient in the best way.
The program is organized into the following four Work Packages (WPs):
WP1: collection of patient data and blood samples from a large patient population.

WP2: development of rapid, fully automated DNA-based bedside tests that identify microorganisms and also provide information about their resistance to antibiotics.

WP3: discovery of novel biomarkers and the development of rapid and easy to perform tests to provide information about the risk profile of individual patients.

WP4: ICT management (integration of all collected information into a central data bank).

Professor Vd Poll - Tom vd Poll.jpg

Prof. Dr. Tom van der Poll:
“Sepsis mortality has remained unacceptably high despite enormous efforts to improve patient care in intensive care units. The MARS consortium combines the clinical and scientific input of three university hospitals with highly innovative technology input from four companies, with the ultimate goal of generating bedside tests that provide rapid information on the cause, the severity and the stage of sepsis in an individual patient. It is our hope that such tests will enable tailored therapy and improve clinical outcome”
Prof. Dr. Tom van der Poll is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases. He is head of the Center of Experimental and Molecular Medicine in the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, and a member of the Steering Committee of the International Sepsis Forum.  He is the author of more than 400 original articles in peer-reviewed journals and more than 50 book chapters, the vast majority of which are on the pathogenesis of sepsis. In his current position, he devotes his time to clinical care of patients with infectious diseases and to research.
Industrial partners
  • BioCartis
  • Check-Points Health BV
  • Immunetrics Inc
  • Immunexpress 
  • Microbiome Ltd
  • Philips Electronics Nederland BV
Academic partners
  • Academisch Medisch Centrum (AMC), Amsterdam,
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum St Radboud, Nijmegen,
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht (UMCU), Utrecht,
Status of the Mars project end of 2009: PDF (download)
Mars project presentation at the CTMM Annual Meeting 2010: PDF (download)
Link to article (in Dutch) April 9, 2013: UMC Utrecht zet SAS in bij onderzoek naar sepsis
Economic and Societal benefits
On the one hand there are possible savings that occur as a consequence of shorter average stays in the ICU. On the other hand there are benefits in terms of improved health status. A rough estimate of the annual savings in the Netherlands, based on 9,000 patients per year and an assumption that three days of ICU treatment per patient could be saved, is around EUR 40 million.
In response to the first call for project proposals in 2007, the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM) announced on April 1, 2008, that nine first-call projects would receive research funding amounting to a total of 150 million Euro. On March 10, 2009, it announced that eight new project proposals, submitted in the fall of 2008 in response to the second call for proposals, will receive funding amounting to a total of almost another 100 million Euro.
All Dutch university medical centers, plus several universities, a broad spectrum of small and medium-sized enterprises, major industry leaders including Philips and DSM Biomedical Materials, and the Dutch Government are involved.
The funding is provided by the Dutch government, industry and academia. The research is focused firmly on the ‘translational’ aspects of molecular medicine so that results can be applied as quickly as possible to actual patient care.
Mars is one of the projects from the second call, with a project budget of 14.0 M€, of which 50% is contributed by the Dutch government.
Updated: April 10, 2013




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