Project focus

CVD causes much of the disease burden in Europe, claiming each year 4.3 million lives in Europe, 2.0 million in the EU (European Heart Network; The main forms of CVD are coronary artery disease (CAD) and stroke. CAD by itself is the single most common cause of death in Europe: accounting for 1.8 million deaths in Europe and 681,000 deaths in the EU per year (European Heart Network; Lipid lowering is the only therapeutic approach targeting the root cause of CVD, with statins achieving an impressive event reduction compared to other lipid lowering agents. Yet patients on high doses of statins still have a high residual CV risk, sparking attempts to mitigate this risk. However, alternatives and adjuncts to statins are difficult to develop, and complex problems were revealed whilst targeting the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CEPT) pathway. New therapeutic targets in CVD are thus urgently required.

Athero-Flux builds on the lipidomics findings that a class of lipids (SLs) that is currently untargeted is associated with significant CVD risk. Data generated by the “AtheroRemo” FP7 Consortium ( have revealed that specific sphingolipids (SLs) are associated with CV risk while others appear to be protective. Remarkably, their levels  are a better predictor of clinical outcome than traditional risk factors such as low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol.

The Athero-Flux Consortium intends to generate new therapeutic targets and tools to address a hitherto unrecognised imbalance in lipid metabolism importantly linked to CV risk. It builds on the strengths of leading European SMEs with know-how in lipid metabolism and RNAi while giving them access to state-of-the-art models of disease and biological readouts and a whole new pipeline of therapeutic targets aligned with their priority areas. The Academic beneficiaries will benefit from collaboration with SMEs with strong regulatory experience to accelerate the translation of their results into clinical applications. The Consortium creates a translational opportunity to turn lipidomics findings in large-scale clinical studies into new therapeutics for CVD. It will also elucidate the complex interaction between dyslipidaemia, atherosclerosis and inflammation essential for designing new therapeutic strategies for patients at risk or suffering from CVD.

Athero-Flux consortium consists of eleven partners from nine EU countries (UK, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece, France and Israel), and brings together experts in atherosclerosis, lipidomics, SL metabolism, high-throughput RNAi screening, LNA technology and gut microflora in a true multidisciplinary effort to achieve better treatment for CVD beyond hypolipidemic drugs.