Canada's Resverlogix is in mid-stage trials for its experimental drug RVX-208. The company, which has no marketed products, is hoping it can achieve the Holy Grail of heart disease drug development: Finding a product that can raise "good" HDL cholesterol.
It's a tree that Pfizer has been barking up for years, but without success. In 2004, the pharma giant spent $1.3 billion purchasing Esperion Therapeutics, and with it the rights to ApoA-1 Milano. The drug, heralded as "Drano for the heart," looked promising. But Pfizer abandoned development after it determined producing the therapy would be too expensive. It eventually sold the ApoA-1 Milano rights to the Medicines Company.
And then, of course, was the now-legendary failure of the CETP inhibitor torcetrapib, which was once projected to bring in $13 billion in annual sales. The day after Pfizer announced the late-stage failure of the drug, its stock dropped 11 percent, taking with it $21 billion in market value. The company would go on to cut almost all its early-stage heart disease work--as well as 10,000 jobs.
Bloomberg notes that after pouring $2 billion into developing a "good" cholesterol drug, Pfizer is still facing the loss of Lipitor patent protection and doesn't have a new heart drug to take its place.
Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steve Nissen was the lead investigator for both Pfizer drugs, and he's also the lead for RVX-208. He points out that the drug works differently than other drugs by activating a protein that causes the production of HDL. The drug is currently in Phase II testing. Not surprisingly, there's been a lot of interest from Big Pharma; if the drug works, it could be as big as Lipitor. But there are hurdles left yet to overcome. Nissen isn't giving up, though. "Hope springs eternal," he tells Bloomberg. "We need to keep trying to find an HDL-raising strategy that works."
- read the Bloomberg article