About five years ago, researchers discovered a mutation in PCSK9 that seemed to positively affect heart health, says Bloomberg's Robert Langreth. Normally, the gene encodes a protein that enables the body to accumulate LDL cholesterol. But the mutation — which occurs in an estimated 3 percent of the population — allows the body to get rid of more cholesterol, dropping a carrier's risk of heart attack by as much as 88 percent, Langreth says. And now, drug companies are vying to create a drug that taps into this PCSK9-variant potential. "More than a half-dozen companies led by Amgen, Sanofi, and Pfizer are developing a new family of treatments based on the science," Langreth says. "Amgen and Sanofi partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals will present data from early human trials at the American Heart Association meeting next week." Amgen is testing its drug in patients with high cholesterol who cannot tolerate standard lipid-lowering drugs. In April, Amgen said a single dose of its compound lowered cholesterol in test patients by as much as 70 percent. Other companies like Merck and Isis Pharmaceuticals are working on anti-PCSK9 antibodies, Langreth adds.
The Heart Race
Nov 15, 2011