The HRP Initiative aims to collaborate on the discovery and development of improved techniques for identifying individuals at risk for heart attacks and the advancement of methods to monitor disease progression and response to treatment. The companies said the HRP Initiative will leverage recent advances in biology and technology to design and optimize a care-cycle for high-risk plaque. Its goal is to reduce morbidity, mortality and cost associated with cardiovascular disease.
"Philips' participation in the HRP Initiative builds on its leading position in cardiovascular imaging, informatics and cardiac monitoring. By combining biomarker characterization with quantitative imaging we strive to reach a more comprehensive understanding of the disease, to find it in asymptomatic patients and treat these patients before high-risk plaque manifests itself," said Diego Olego, Chief Technology Officer of Philips Medical Systems.
High-risk plaque is associated with the number one cause of death in the Western world. Heart attacks were previously attributed to the build up of cholesterol deposits in the vessel wall of the heart in patients with high blood cholesterol. These deposits were believed to cause a gradual narrowing of the coronary arteries and eventually, blockage. Pathologists have reported for decades that many patients who died of heart attacks had only minor build up and no narrowing of the coronary arteries; instead, a quickly forming thrombus (blood clot) had formed over a disrupted plaque and blocked the artery.
Looking for an explanation of this phenomenon researchers have reported over the past five years that in addition to cholesterol deposits plaque in the coronary and carotid arteries also showed inflammation. The inflamed plaque can suddenly rupture and cause thrombosis. Such plaques are today known as high-risk plaques. This rupture of a high-risk plaque in a coronary artery without flow obstruction explains why 70-85 percent of heart attacks occur in people who were without any pre-existing complaints and presumed healthy.
Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for the HRP Initiative commented, "The HRP Initiative is expected to make important contributions to the development of a cost-effective care-cycle for this common condition that is responsible for much suffering, disability and death in the world. The HRP Initiative covers a broad spectrum of pertinent issues, from molecular markers to the role of lifestyle interventions." Dr. Fuster is a leading international cardiologist who serves as director of the Zena and Michael A. Weiner Cardiovascular Institute and the Marie-Josee and Henry R. Kravis Center for Cardiovascular Health and Director of Mount Sinai Heart, New York City, New York.
Erling Falk, M.D., Ph.D., a prominent cardiovascular pathologist who co-chairs the Scientific Advisory Board for the HRP Initiative added, "Coming together under the umbrella of the HRP Initiative to work collaboratively to move research and development of this important disease forward will improve diagnosis and treatment of patients at high risk for serious cardiovascular disease." Dr. Falk is professor of Cardiovascular Pathology, Department of Cardiology, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark.
The HRP Initiative expects to provide a total of US$30 million in funding over four years and will include a total of six sponsoring companies. AstraZeneca, Merck & Co. and Royal Philips Electronics are the first three companies that have committed to sponsor the initiative. This collaboration also involves Humana, one of the largest publicly traded health benefits companies in the U.S., and reflects the creative real-world ways that the HRP Initiative hopes to work. Involving all members of the care-cycle in this research initiative is novel and crucial to the overall success. BG Medicine, a biotechnology research company based in Waltham, Massachusetts, serves as the project coordinator.
The HRP Initiative is governed by a Joint Steering Committee composed of representatives of each of the companies and a Scientific Program Board of the world's foremost scientists and clinicians led by Drs. Fuster and Falk.
About Royal Philips Electronics
Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHI) is a global leader in healthcare, lifestyle and technology, delivering products, services and solutions through the brand promise of "sense and simplicity." Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips employs approximately 121,700 employees in more than 60 countries worldwide. With sales of USD 34 billion (EUR 27 billion) in 2006, the company is a market leader in medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring systems, energy efficient lighting solutions, personal care and home appliances, as well as consumer electronics. News from Philips is located at www.philips.com/newscenter.