Each year, about 75,000 patients in Canada will develop sepsis (severe infection). Although it is reversible, sepsis often causes death. Sepsis and a related condition, systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), lead to multiple organ dysfunction and are the most common reasons for admission to intensive care units. Using genetic information that became available after completion of the human genome project, Dr. Keith Walley is researching the genetic determinants of the acute inflammatory response and organ failure associated with sepsis. His aim is to clarify the genetic mechanisms which give rise to the inflammatory response and to apply this information to identify patients who are at risk for adverse outcomes based on their genotype (genetic make-up). His ultimate goal is individualized management of patients with sepsis, based on knowledge of the way their genotype will influence their susceptibility to and risk of developing life-threatening symptoms, as well as their ability to respond to treatment.