It's a sure bet drug developer Liponex Inc. will be feeling one of those things at the end of February when it reports do-or-die clinical results for a new treatment to raise levels of "good" cholesterol and reduce heart disease.
"This is the Holy Grail of cardiovascular R&D," claims Duncan Emerton, an analyst with British market research firm Datamonitor PLC, referring to the link between raising good cholesterol, or HDL, and melting plaque buildup in arteries that can cause heart attacks and stroke.
On the other hand, statin drugs, of which Lipitor is the best known, have created a $32-billion-a-year (U.S.) market by lowering "bad" cholesterol, or LDL. But they only halt the buildup of additional plaque. Studies have shown that a 1-per-cent drop in LDL can reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 1 per cent, but a 1-per-cent increase in HDL can reduce the risk by 3 per cent.