Atherosclerosis vaccine development receives EU support
18 June 2009
Vienna-based AFFiRiS AG has announced that its atherosclerosis
vaccine development program is receiving support from the EU's
EUROTRANS-BIO call. The project — known as CETP Vaccine (ETB-2008-28) —
is based on the AFFITOME technology of AFFiRiS AG and is being conducted
together with EMC microcollections GmbH from Tubingen, Germany.
The urgent need for an effective strategy against atherosclerosis is
clearly evident from the relevant figures — diseases of the
cardiovascular system are the number one cause of death in Europe and
In Europe, this is at the root of almost 50% of all deaths. One of
the primary causes of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis, a
narrowing of key arteries due to fatty deposits. Although there are
options for medication-based intervention in the form of statins, these
are deemed to be of limited effectiveness despite some notable
CSO Dr Frank Mattner explains: "Today's therapies with Statins act on
low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLc) and reduce its concentration
in the blood. This type of treatment can reduce the likelihood of severe
heart disease by as little as 30 % — and that's only if the patient
takes the necessary medication correctly and regularly.
"In contrast, our vaccine approach aims at decreasing the cholesterol
transfer from HDL to LDL, thus increasing the concentration of the
beneficial HDL. This vaccine approach with its long-lasting effects
should avoid patients having to take life-long, daily medication to a
The main item of the joint efforts of AFFiRiS and EMC is the
vaccination against cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP). By
transferring cholesteryl ester from HDLc to LDLc and VLDLc, this protein
reduces "good" HDL and has a detrimental impact on the ratio of LDLc to
HDLc. In the future, our vaccine will reduce the activity of this
protein and shift the balance of HDLc and LDLc in the blood back in
favour of HDLc.
Outlining the major benefit of the AFFITOME technology, project
manager Dr Sylvia Brunner adds: "CETP is one of the body's own proteins.
Trying to reduce its activity using a vaccine, we are faced with a
formidable challenge. The body has many means of suppressing an immune
response to its own proteins, or limiting the effectiveness of any such
"That's why previous attempts to develop a vaccine against CETP
failed. However, as AFFiRiS has already demonstrated in its work on a
vaccine for Alzheimer's disease, the AFFITOME technology makes it
possible to circumvent these mechanisms. We are now applying this
principle to atherosclerosis."
CEO Dr. Walter Schmidt continues: "So far, we have announced the
development of vaccines for three diseases — Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
and now atherosclerosis. Currently, four other indications are also part
of our development pipeline, all of them characterised by a very high
number of patients but also by a lack of satisfactory treatments.
"As a result, these indications fit in well with our long-term
strategy. Our strategy itself is beginning to pay back as demonstrated
by the licensing agreement worth €430
million that we recently concluded with GSK Biologicals regarding the
rights for the technology for our Alzheimer's vaccine programs."
The CETP Vaccine project is scheduled to last 30 months and is due to
culminate in phase I clinical trials. Overall, the support provided to
the project by the EU is worth several hundred thousand euros, while the
two project partners are bearing around half of the total costs.
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