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2023-12-20| R&D

Pioneering Vaccine Offers Hope for Affordable Cholesterol Management

by Sinead Huang
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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the primary cause of global mortality, claiming nearly 19 million lives in 2020. Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) significantly contribute to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). While statins are widely prescribed, their varying effectiveness and potential adverse effects have led to the quest for alternative lipid-lowering therapies.Recently, researchers at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine have developed a PCSK9-targeting vaccine using virus-like particles, showing efficacy in reducing cholesterol levels in animal models.

Related article: FDA Extends Approval Of Regeneron’s Evkeeza For Inherited High Cholesterol

PCSK9 Inhibitors – A Breakthrough but Costly Solution

Protein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors, including monoclonal antibodies and siRNA-based therapies, have emerged as potent options to reduce LDL-C. FDA-approved therapies like evolocumab and alirocumab showcase efficacy but come with a hefty price tag, raising concerns about cost-effectiveness. These inhibitors, often used in conjunction with statins, are primarily employed for secondary prevention in cases where statin monotherapy falls short.

Novel VLP Vaccine – An Affordable and Efficient Alternative 

Researchers at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine have introduced a groundbreaking vaccine targeting PCSK9. Utilizing virus-like particles (VLPs), the vaccine displays specific PCSK9 peptides, inducing robust anti-PCSK9 antibody responses. Unlike traditional immunological challenges related to self-antigens, VLP-based vaccines efficiently overcome these obstacles. The cost-effective production of vaccines, coupled with their potential for fewer doses, enhances accessibility and patient compliance. The engineered VLP-based vaccine demonstrates efficacy in reducing total cholesterol levels in various animal models, offering a promising avenue for lowering LDL-C without the need for frequent statin administration.

Future Prospects and Global Impact

As the research progresses, the VLP-based vaccine targeting PCSK9 holds immense potential for revolutionizing cholesterol management. The ability to lower LDL-C levels without the frequent administration of statins could mark a significant advancement in cardiovascular care. With an estimated cost per dose under $100, the vaccine’s affordability and global applicability could address the economic constraints associated with current PCSK9 inhibitors. The ongoing efforts to move into vaccine manufacturing and clinical trials signify a ten-year timeline for potential human use, presenting an optimistic outlook for a cost-effective and efficient solution to combat high cholesterol levels globally.

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