Researchers tout vaccine's potential to lower cholesterol

Early cost projections for the newly approved cholesterol-lowering PCSK9 meds from Sanofi/Regeneron and Amgen ($AMGN) have predicted the meds will cost providers anywhere between $15 billion and an astronomical $150 billion each year. However, researchers from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health say they are working on a vaccine with the potential to lower cholesterol in a more cost-effective way.

UNM's Dr. Bryce Chackerian

This week, the team reported that a PCSK9-targeting vaccine led to a reduction in LDL cholesterol in mice and macaques by targeting the protein and stopping it from functioning. The work, which was published in Vaccine, is in early stages and there's no guarantee it'll ever hit the market, but according to UNM researcher Dr. Bryce Chackerian, the vaccine appears to be "much more effective" than just statins in reducing cholesterol.

Mice showed a reduced level of LDL cholesterol, while a small group of macaques showed a dramatic decrease in cholesterol when the vaccine was used along with statins, the researchers reported. The team is now looking to move their technology forward with commercial partners and plans to expand the studies in macaques.

The vaccine targets the same protein as recently FDA-approved Praluent from Sanofi ($SNY)/Regeneron ($REGN) and Repatha from Amgen, but, according to the researchers, could be cheaper and more cost-effective than the monoclonal antibody-based treatments that run upward of $10,000 per year.

In the United States, more than 73 million adults have high LDL cholesterol, according to the CDC. To lower their cholesterol, several million people take statins, which can have serious side effects. Recently, FiercePharma reported that 76% of cardiologists said they were enthusiastic about the new meds, which were both approved by the FDA over the summer.

- here's the release
- read the research article