New research illustrates role of CETP in atherosclerosis

Supports concept of avant immunotherapeutics' atherosclerosis vaccine

NEEDHAM, MA (November 29, 1999): New research demonstrates that the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) can promote atherosclerosis, thus supporting the novel vaccine approach to preventing or treating that disease now under development by AVANT Immunotherapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: AVAN). A study published in the December issue of Nature Medicine by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and AVANT describes the creation of a transgenic rat model that carries the human gene for CETP in a rat strain that develops high blood pressure. As they aged, such rats developed severely high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, atherosclerotic lesions, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), and had decreased survival, thus closely mimicking human atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.

"This research strongly suggests that elevated CETP may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis in humans. It also substantiates a mechanism for the known epidemiological link between increased risk of coronary heart disease and increasing severity of hypertension," said Victoria L. M. Herrera of Boston University School of Medicine, lead author of the publication. "We believe this transgenic rat line will prove a useful predictive model for research in cardiovascular disease."

The normal role of CETP in the body is to shuttle cholesterol from high density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) to low density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol), thus controlling in part the relative levels of those two substances. High levels of LDL and low levels of HDL are known to contribute to atherosclerosis. AVANT's investigational vaccine is designed to raise serum HDL cholesterol levels by inducing antibodies against a critical portion of the CETP molecule, thus blocking its cholesterol shuttling activity and inducing a plasma lipoprotein profile consistent with a low

Contact: Joan Kureczka
Kureczka/Martin Associates

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