Blockbuster market awaits developers of antibodies against heart attacks

Sanofi ($SNY) and Regeneron ($REGN) made headlines yesterday for compelling results of their antibody drug for lowering bad cholesterol, potentially reducing the risk of heart attacks. And Bloomberg's Robert Langreth today gets the pulse of a host of major drug developers' programs focused on experimental antibodies that target a gene that, when mutated, is linked with dramatic drops in heart-attack risk.

Amgen ($AMGN) is very much in the race with its candidate AMG 145, another antibody targeting PCSK9. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based biotech giant is slated to present data from early human studies of the drug next week at the American Heart Association meeting, Bloomberg reports. Amgen R&D chief Roger Perlmutter told the news service that at least 4 million people could benefit from the drugs. Some patients can't tolerate traditional cholesterol pills such as Pfizer's Lipitor, for instance, and shots of the antibody treatments could help lower the LDL or "bad" cholesterol that endangers such people.

The treatments are based on findings that a mutation to the PCSK9 gene lowers output of proteins that reduce the ability of the liver to filter bad cholesterol from the blood, Langreth wrote. So lowering the protein levels has been linked to steep drops in cholesterol levels. Exploiting this research with drugs could make fortunes for companies developing PCSK9-targeted drugs.

"It is the biggest opportunity for lowering cardiovascular risk for the entire pharmaceutical industry," Perlmutter told Bloomberg. "Millions of people could benefit from this."

- get more in the article

Special Report: Regeneron Pharmaceuticals - Biotech's Biggest Spenders 2011