Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death worldwide, with hypercholesterolemia, or a high concentration of cholesterol in the blood, as the most important risk factor associated with them. According to estimates, more than 240 million Europeans have blood cholesterol levels that are too high.
While cholesterol-lowering drugs are commonly used to lower cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular diseases, their effectiveness varies between individuals, and many patients fail to achieve their blood cholesterol target levels.
Currently, there are no effective means available in healthcare to determine the level of response to cholesterol drug therapies in individual patients. Consequently, optimal therapies must be sought through trial and error, resulting in a lengthy road to reaching the target or, in the worst cases, failure to do so at all.
A research group headed by Simon Pfisterer, PhD, is working on a solution to the problem. The group is developing an analysis tool that makes it easier to identify the appropriate personalised therapy for individual patients.
“Our invention can provide insight into why patients respond differently to cholesterol-lowering drugs,” Pfisterer says.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs are the most widely prescribed drugs in the world.
“It is our goal that Moncyte analysis tools will facilitate the planning and implementation of personalised drug therapies in the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia. This opens up great commercial opportunities in Europe, the United States and elsewhere in the world,” Pfisterer adds.
“We envisage that our approach will allow more patients to achieve their treatment goals and reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases. In other words, it will save lives,” he says.
The research group’s invention is based on basic research in cell biology on how cholesterol is transported and processed in human cells. The most important cholesterol-lowering drugs function at the cellular level, making this type of research essential to identifying opportunities for developing novel drugs and personalised therapies for hypercholesterolaemia.
“For now, there is not much information available on why hypercholesterolaemia develops differently in individual persons, and why some people have a better response to cholesterol-lowering drugs than others,” says Professor Elina Ikonen, who has also contributed to the research and development project.
“The idea for developing an analysis tool came about when we were developing automated analysis procedures for cell-based assays. We realised that a tool that would produce information on the cellular functions of individual persons would benefit patients, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies. It is precisely these cellular mechanisms of the patient that are influenced by cholesterol-lowering drugs,” Ikonen explains.
The research group has assessed the initial applicability of the tool with the help of samples from biobanks and patients with familial hypercholesterolaemia.
Now, the analysis tool is being developed with a Research to Business grant awarded by Business Finland.
“We are currently advancing the performance of the system and preparing for official approval processes,” says Tamara Alagirova, who is in charge of the invention’s commercialisation. “At the same time, we are collecting more extensive patient data encompassing larger patient groups with the help of biobanks and European collaboration.”
“Our goal is to identify extensive application potential in healthcare for our invention so that it can be used to improve patient care, the impact and capacity of healthcare as well as the health of the population,” Alagirova concludes.
Most patients with hypercholesterolaemia do not achieve their target cholesterol level, and it takes too long to determine which patients need more effective drug therapies to lower their cholesterol levels. The medical demand for personalised and targeted cholesterol-lowering drug therapy is great.
The Moncyte analysis tool is a unique solution that provides information on cellular mechanisms that affect the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering drugs in individual patients. This enables personalised treatment strategies and helps more patients achieve their target cholesterol levels sooner.
Moncyte is a unique solution that is entirely different from existing diagnostic tests that measure blood cholesterol concentration, enabling the establishment of a new market segment with little competition. Our upcoming spin-out company will offer testing as a purchased service and integrate the entire value chain by establishing centralised analysis centres. A patent application has been filed, and the next step is to submit a PCT application.
We are looking for funding to launch a spin-out company in 18 months. We aim to network and communicate with investors at an early stage, and we are open to scientific and commercial collaboration and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies specialising in cardiovascular diseases.