The Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care (MCIRCC) hosted its first annual Grand Challenge event over the course of two, half-day sessions on January 24 and 25.  Nearly 50 MCIRCC members attended this inaugural event, braving blizzard conditions to attend the program all in the fight against sepsis.

“As a young organization gaining its foothold, this level of member representation at our first Grand Challenge event is exciting and encouraging as we strive to push research beyond the idea stage for real-world impact,” stated MCIRCC’s Managing Director Janene Centurione.

 The Grand Challenge targets the most pressing problems in critical care by leveraging integrated science teams to engage, develop and deliver technological solutions to key critical care health problems.  For its inaugural event, MCIRCC zeroed in on sepsis because of its complexity, impact, and far-reaching implications across the critical care spectrum.

With more than a million cases each year in the U.S. and 250,000 deaths annually, sepsis poses a serious public health problem. U-M Pediatric Intensivist and MCIRCC member, Timothy Cornell describes it as, "...one of the most common situations that bring both previously healthy and patients with prior diseases (i.e. cancer) into our intensive care unit. Sepsis is either the primary issue causing critical illness or can be the result of treatment for other conditions that result in immunosuppression."

Day 1 of the Grand Challenge program examined the complex science, incidence, economic and non-economic costs, diagnosis and treatment challenges attributed to sepsis; potential models for new therapeutics, diagnostics, devices or digital health solutions to support the septic patient and healthcare provider were also presented. Day 2 introduced MCIRCC members to internal U-M resources and entrepreneurial fundamentals to support the development of solutions suitable for future commercialization.

The two-day program ended on a high note, with the release of the MCIRCC Grand Challenge Funding Opportunity that will support high-impact proposals up to $100,000 per project for milestone driven research to take place over the next 18 months. Taking a unique “team science” approach, each Proposal must have a joint PI from the University of Michigan's Medical School and the College of Engineering.

Even if a research team doesn't receive funding this time around, the learning from the Grand Challenge could give their solution the jumpstart that it needs. MCIRCC Director Dr. Kevin Ward noted, "The gift that might keep giving from the Grand Challenge is not just the technologies that come out of it and are funded, but the collaborations that result, the fact that we are able to educate people working in this area to think differently about potential projects and funding opportunities."