Press releases


EU consortium to discover novel therapeutic targets for CVD


A consortium of researchers and SMEs across Europe has been awarded €5.8 million ($8 million) to study the mechanisms regulating plasma lipid levels in relation to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The project, funded by the Seventh Framework Protocol (FP7; project Nr. 603091) of the European Commission, aims at identifying novel targets for therapeutic intervention through improving insight into the molecular origins of disturbed lipid metabolism in patients.

With the goal of “Translating disease into Cardiovascular Health” (TransCard) – the project involves researchers from UMCG and AMC in The Netherlands, USZ and Nebion AG in Switzerland, Righospitalet in Denmark, and PolyQuant GmbH in Germany.

According to Jan Albert Kuivenhoven, coordinator of the consortium, “the molecular origins of severe lipid disorders remain a treasure cove to improve our insights into the biology of plasma lipid levels. Despite the use of statins, we are currently still facing a 50-70% residual risk of suffering from CVD”. Our society therefore faces “an urgent need to identify targets that are amenable for drug intervention”.

TransCard will tackle th­­is challenge by combining the expertise and resources of its unique set of industrial and academic partners. On the one hand, researchers will pursue in-silico discovery based on a very large curated compendium of transcriptomic data related to CVD and toxicology assembled by the Swiss bioinformatics company Nebion. Using GENEVESTIGATOR and other systems biology approaches, novel targets will be identified and prioritized. On the other hand, in collaboration with the proteomics company Entelechon, TransCard will develop state-of-the-art quantitative proteomic kits to find and validate targets both in vitro and in patient studies.

“We are very excited to apply our technologies to better understand processes leading to CVD”, Philip Zimmermann, CEO of Nebion, said in a statement. “In a pilot study prior to writing the proposal, we identified a gene target that turned out to cause a very strong cholesterol phenotype in a knock-out mouse model”. Soon after the same gene was identified in human genetic studies. “These results were very encouraging and demonstrated the ability of our in-silico approach to effectively identify and prioritize novel targets. Combining our analytics with the expertise of our academic partners to interpret results and to create cell culture or mouse models gives a unique strength to the consortium”, he added.

During the 60 months of the project, TransCard will carry out preclinical studies of lead targets for further development by other parties. Thanks to direct access to unique biobanks and cohorts, the validation of 30 selected targets will be carried out in large general population and case-control outcome studies.