A biomedical startup down the road from me was developing something called HDL Selective Delipidation. It’s a process that passed the FDA safety tests, and effectively reduced coronary plaque in a small test group. It might never get to wider trials because their sources of funding dried up, thanks to our crippled economy, and they had to close their doors. This is after putting about $60 million into the business.
Since you are probably not a doctor, allow me to explain the importance of “reduced coronary plaque.” Doctors prescribe drugs called statins for people who are predisposed to cardiovascular events. Statins slow the progression of atherosclerosis (plaque in the coronary arteries). Slowing it down is good enough to substantially reduce the rate of cardiovascular problems in this country. But even with statins, people who are predisposed to cardiovascular problems are still more likely than not to have a problem down the road.
Unlike statins, HDL Selective Delipidation actually reversed the progression of coronary plaque, in just seven weeks, at least with the small test group. If the company had funding for larger trials, the process might someday be combined with statins to be a powerful one-two punch.
How many lives could it save? Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, killing about 450,000 people per year. There are about 1.2 million new and recurrent cases of coronary attacks per year, of which 38% will die. If this new treatment could reduce the mortality rate by 10% (which I’m told is conservative), it would save 46,000 people a year. It could also significantly reduce healthcare expenditures and improve patients’ quality of life.
As it stands now, perhaps 46,000 people will die per year because the company just entered bankruptcy. The key employees are still available and eager to make this process work. If you know anyone who invests in this sort of company (at a ridiculously low cost), such as venture capitalists or biotech companies, pass them a link to this post and see if you can save some lives, including maybe your own.
[Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the company. When I asked my friend Tim how many people might die because the company couldn’t get funding, I felt it was important to blog about it.]