n the early 1990s the root causes of atherosclerosis had started to become clearer. Emerging research showed that the disease bore a direct relation to inflammation triggered by lipoproteins and other agents that spurred growth of atherosclerotic deposits. Two professors at the Emory University School of Medicine--Russell M. Medford and R. Wayne Alexander, both cardiologists and biologists--were intrigued by findings that tied inflammation to oxidants, molecules that strip electrons from other molecules. Their experiment suggested a new way to treat coronary artery disease. Medford and Alexander realized that they might have devised a method of treating coronary artery disease that dealt with more than a single risk factor (such as high cholesterol). Neither Alexander nor Medford had plans to start a company. But Michael A. Henos of Alliance Technology Ventures, persuaded them to do just that. Atherogenics took the essential step of partnering with a pharmaceutical manufacturer, Schering Plough, in October 1999. Ultimately, the partnership proved to be a poor match. Six weeks after the split, Atherogenics received the results of an analysis done after its clinical trial, a test of drug safety and effectiveness that encompassed 305 patients. The analysis from the trial showed that in a nearby, unstented part of an artery, the volume of the bloodflow channel had increased--suggesting a reversal of atherosclerosis. Wall Street has taken notice.