Cardiovascular research receives £7 million funding boost

Posted by: Jamie Sharp - Posted on:

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has awarded £3 million to the University of Leicester to support its world-class cardiovascular disease research over the next five years.

The University of Leicester has pledged to match the award from the BHF, with additional funding from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, taking the total investment in cardiovascular disease research in Leicester to around £7 million.

Funding will support researchers within the NIHR Leicester BRC to expand their ground-breaking studies into the causes of common and rare cardiovascular diseases, as well as refining appropriate treatments and interventions.

Professor André Ng, Professor of Cardiac Electrophysiology and Consultant Cardiologist and Head of Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester, who led the team in the competitive bid, said: “We are thrilled and truly honoured to receive this award which reflects the hard work and dedication of all our researchers and support staff past and present who tirelessly strive to make advancements in cardiovascular science.

Professor Andre Ng

“We are committed to translating innovative research into tangible benefits for patients. This funding will allow us to expand the fantastic work being done here to turbocharge our efforts towards impactful research output.

“A major focus will be to raise the next generation of talented cardiovascular researchers and advance cutting-edge science for the benefits of our patients. We will build a collaborative community that brings researchers working across different disease areas and non-medical disciplines to drive forward lifesaving breakthroughs.”

Funding for the £3 million BHF award comes from the charity’s highly competitive Research Excellence Awards scheme. It will support researchers at the University of Leicester to:

  • Continue to use genetics and related technologies to identify causes of common and rare cardiovascular disease and to predict who is at most risk of developing disease for targeting preventative strategies.
  • Develop, test and refine new ways of cardiovascular treatments for patients and increase access and find out which treatments are best for different people.
  • Determine how cardiovascular diseases and other common conditions are associated with each other and help identify who might benefit from interventions that target more than one condition at a time, and the combinations of treatments that different patients might require, particularly working with different ethnic groups to identify which treatments are best for each group.

Professor Bryan Williams, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to continue to support research at the University of Leicester addressing the biggest challenges in cardiovascular disease. This funding recognises the incredible research already happening in Leicester and will help to cement its status as a global leader in the field.

“With generous donations from our supporters, this funding will attract the brightest talent, power cutting-edge science, and unlock lifesaving discoveries that can turn the tide on the devastation caused by heart and circulatory diseases.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Tom Robinson, Head of the College of Life Sciences and Dean of Medicine at the University, said: “This match-funded award is further evidence of the strength of our ground-breaking cardiovascular bench-to-bedside research and builds on the recognition of the REF2021 Clinical Medicine Unit of Assessment, where we were placed second, and our NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.

“Around 7.6 million people in the UK are living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK so it’s our hope that our work, in collaboration with our major NHS partner, the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, can make a real difference to the lives of others.”

University Vice chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, said: “I’m delighted that the research Professor Ng is undertaking alongside colleagues will be further boosted by this fantastic award. This BHF award is a testament to the global impact we are making here in Leicester in developing treatments for heart disease across all ethnicities.”

Richard Mitchell, Chief Executive of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, added: “This significant investment recognises the world-class cardiovascular disease research taking place in Leicester. Congratulations to Professor Ng and his team – I am thrilled this is another example of the power and influence of the long-standing relationship between the University of Leicester and the Trust.”

In 2019 the University received a £1 million Accelerator Award from the BHF to develop its cardiovascular research programme. The funding has supported research that is already laying the foundations for future breakthroughs including the discovery of genetic determinants for cell lifespan and the development of cardiovascular disease, as well as demonstrating the clinical value of a polygenic risk score to improve the prediction of cardiovascular disease.

Work has also taken place to develop novel data analysis tools for the prediction of lethal arrhythmias exploiting cutting edge engineering and artificial intelligence techniques.  In addition, researchers have improved understanding of heart valve and diabetes related heart disease, demonstrating the long-term prognostic importance of imaging detected myocardial fibrosis as well as microvascular dysfunction. All these advances are aimed at developing better personalised therapeutic strategies.