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The most powerful cholesterol drugs ever invented have become a pharmaceutical cautionary tale, failing to reach their commercial potential because of high sticker prices and an inconvenient need for needles. Esperion Therapeutics (ESPR), a small Michigan company with a pair of approved cholesterol treatments, believes it can replicate their effects in pill form, creating a cheaper, easier-to-take medicine that can succeed where its predecessors faltered.

Esperion said Wednesday that it has bought the rights to an oral treatment that targets PCSK9, a protein found in the liver that regulates LDL “bad” cholesterol. The deal, involving a privately held firm called Serometrix, involves a $12.5 million in upfront cash followed by undisclosed future payments tied to development milestones.


The treatment is in the earliest stages of development. It also has never been tested in a human trial, and Esperion declined to disclose a timeline for its development. But the company is confident Serometrix’s novel approach to chemistry can hit a target that has evaded the drug industry for years: blocking PCSK9 with a pill.

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