Drug developers have tried for decades without success to develop treatments for sepsis, a brutal infection that can lead to organ failure. Now a leading immunotherapy company is taking the novel approach of using cutting-edge cancer drugs to try to beat back the deadly infection of the blood.

Sepsis is implicated in up to half of hospital deaths, amounting to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the US per year. Doctors can use antibiotics to help control septic infections, but they don’t work in many cases. And when the immune system ramps up in its attempt to overcome the bacteria, it often inflicts collateral damage on the heart, kidney, lungs, liver, and brain.

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