With Esperion Reboot, Lipitor Co-Discoverer Roger Newton Pushes For Therapy Beyond Drugs

5/25/11Follow @xconomy

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Esperion says, was safe and well tolerated by animals and was able to significantly lower LDL. The company is currently conducting a Phase II study of 176 human patients that will be completed in the fourth quarter this year. Esperion is also partnering with the Cleveland Clinic on heart-related therapies.

Esperion has attracted $23 million in venture capital from investors like Domain Associates, Alta Partners, and Aisling Capital, mostly based on Newton’s reputation.

Arboretum Ventures, based in Ann Arbor, MI, is also an investor, even though the company does not typically finance drug startups.

“It is an exception for us,” says Arboretum managing director Tim Peterson. “We invested because of Roger’s tremendous track record with Lipitor and the original Esperion, the great VC syndicate, and the promise of a lead compound to address cardiovascular disease.”

Esperion also wants to see if the same drugs can treat metabolic disorders like diabetes. People don’t die directly from diabetes but rather complications that result from diabetes, such as heart disease, Newton says.

In many ways, the new Esperion reflects how Newton’s approach to medicine and healthcare in general has evolved over the years.

Newton says he has come to realize that the body is an intricate tapestry where functions like cell metabolism and lipid regulation are closely interconnected. Doctors have traditionally treated diseases as separate silos. Instead, doctors should adopt an integrated approach to medicine that can treat or prevent multiple disorders at the same time, Newton says.

“We have long been in a reductionist mindset, where we have specialties in tissue and systems,” Newton says. “A functional, holistic approach is what we need to really to focus on in real detail and understand better. What’s this individual’s biochemistry profile telling us? How should we treat them? Is a statin the right drug for them?”

ETC-1002 could be a prevention therapy, not just a drug patients take after they develop cardiovascular disease or diabetes, Newton says. But in this holistic approach, lifestyle choices like diet and exercise also play a critical role, he says.

“We are now going to be really focused on not just the pharmacological part of it [but also diet],” he says. “I believe food is medicine. What we have done is polluted the human body with very unhealthy food we all have a tendency to eat, and not take care of ourselves.”

“I’m trying to connect the dots here,” he continued. “Pharma companies make money because they give people drugs to treat disease, not in all situations to promote overall health. What’s happened in the latest healthcare bill is that people should be held responsible for their own health, that prevention and wellness are the hallmarks of human health. That’s a whole different approach.”

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