Leading physicians launch avert-AF initiative to develop drug treatment for atrial fibrillation


On 24 April, leading cardiovascular scientists from the University of Michigan, USA, and St George’s University of London, UK, announced the launch of avert-AF, a new initiative aimed at developing drug treatments for the prevention of the more advanced forms of atrial fibrillation.

A research team at the University of Michigan led by Jose Jalife, studied the disease processes leading up to the first occurrence of atrial fibrillation and its progression to the most advanced form of the disease. They discovered that two related disease processes known as structural and electrical remodeling occur in parallel and share a number of common mediators a mediator is a chemical substance, often a protein, which is responsible for a set of reactions leading to the disease or its progression. This research found that galectin-3 is an important mediator of both structural and electrical remodeling.

Understanding of a disease pathway and its mediators enables drug research and development that aims to block the pathway and prevent disease progression. These recent unexpected discoveries suggest that a number of different drug development strategies may lead to a new pharmaceutical product that can halt the progression of atrial fibrillation in its early stage of disease when symptoms are often mild.

One such strategy is blocking the disease pathway by means of a galectin-3 inhibitor, a new class of therapeutics that is currently investigated for other conditions. The avert-AF initiative aims to accelerate pharmaceutical research and development that builds on these scientific findings.

According to a press release, the initiative is open to all biopharmaceutical companies. The avert-AF initiative aims to perform scientific experiments to validate this approach to treatment of atrial fibrillation and to develop tools that can be used by biopharmaceutical companies in their drug research. The findings of the initiative should help biopharmaceutical companies to pursue their own drug research and development projects.

“Atrial fibrillation is a common, serious and often debilitating condition,” said professor John Camm, BHF professor of Clinical Cardiology, St George’s University of London, UK. “In recent years we have made great progress in the prevention of complications of atrial fibrillation. However, this research has opened our eyes to an even bigger goal, namely the prevention of the more serious forms of the disease.”

“Our research findings suggest that a protein called galectin-3 plays an important role in the underlying disease processes that are responsible for the progression of atrial fibrillation to its more serious form of persistent atrial fibrillation,” said Jose Jalife, Cyrus and Jane Farrehi professor of Cardiovascular Research and professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan. “The data suggest that there is a window of time during which drug treatment may be effective in halting the disease. This would alter the course of disease and avoid the widespread disability and high costs associated with advanced atrial fibrillation.”

“This is a new model of collaboration between industry and academic research centres to advance a scientific finding and create a path for corporate research and product development,” said Bertram Pitt, professor of Medicine Emeritus of the University of Michigan. “Many important academic findings were slow to find their way into corporate product research and development to create novel treatments to the benefit of patients. In this new model, we sit down together and create a research programme to optimise the hand-off so that each of the companies can pursue their research and development based on our findings.”

“In 2008 we welcomed Dr Jalife and his team to the University of Michigan to advance the understanding of rhythm disorders and enable new treatment options,” said David J Pinsky, Ruth professor and chief of Cardiovascular Medicine and a director of the Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center of the University of Michigan. “This bold initiative represents an important milestone towards developing new treatments for atrial fibrillation and highlights the importance we place on academic-industry partnership in developing innovative therapies.”

About avert-AF

Avert-AF is a pre-competitive industry collaboration to validate pathways of structural and electrical remodeling underlying atrial fibrillation development and progression. avert-AF is open to all biopharmaceutical corporations and aims to enable pharmaceutical research and development of drugs to prevent or slow the progression of atrial fibrillation. For further information see