Acute pancreatitis is a serious condition that results in 250,000 hospital admissions per year in the US alone, with incidence rates rising rapidly in recent years driven by factors such as diet and increasing obesity rates. Because of the lack of an effective therapy, this can often result in a life-threatening debilitating illness, secondary complications, extended hospitalization, high medical bills, and severe life and family disruption. An estimated 15-25% will develop severe acute pancreatitis defined by prolonged organ failure. Overall, mortality is about 5% and costs $2.6 billion in inpatient medical care costs annually.

Acute pancreatitis is one of the core areas of interest for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and is particularly relevant given the serious burden of this disease on affected patients and the health care system.

Pancreatic lipases are naturally occurring enzymes found in the stomach and pancreatic juice. Their function is to digest fats and lipids and help maintain correct gallbladder function. In acute severe pancreatitis, lipases are leaked by the inflamed pancreas, which then damage the surrounding fat.