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FEATURE ARTICLE

Statins: From Fungus to Pharma

The curiosity of biochemists, mixed with some obvious economic incentives, created a family of powerful cardiovascular drugs

Philip A. Rea

Click to Enlarge ImageIn 1966, Akira Endo, a young Japanese biochemist, started an adventure that would ultimately save thousands, if not millions, of lives. Endo's two interests—fungi and cholesterol—merged and spurred the discovery and development of a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins. The number of deaths from cardiovascular diseases has decreased by about 25 percent in the United States since 1994, not because of a radical change in lifestyle—although this is happening—but because of the ready availability of cardioprotective drugs. Not coincidentally, the business battle to develop the most-effective statin has led to the world's top-selling pharmaceutical.


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