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£5m boost for University of Cambridge’s cardiovascular disease research from British Heart Foundation

A £5million funding boost to support the University of Cambridge’s cardiovascular disease research over the next five years has been awarded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The money is part of a £35m UK-wide investment from the charity under its competitive Research Excellence Awards scheme.

Professor Martin Bennett standing outside the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Heart and Lung Research Institute. Picture: Lloyd Mann, University of Cambridge
Professor Martin Bennett standing outside the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Heart and Lung Research Institute. Picture: Lloyd Mann, University of Cambridge

Prof Martin Bennett, BHF professor of cardiovascular sciences at the University of Cambridge, said: “This is a fantastic achievement from the whole Cambridge team. This award will support our multiple research programmes identifying new targets and treatments for vascular disease and heart failure, new ways to reduce the consequences of diabetes and obesity, and how we can get our research used to treat patients.”

The money will enable Cambridge researchers to:

- Combine their expertise to work on cardiovascular diseases and in populations with high unmet need;
- Identify new markers and disease targets for a wide range of cardiovascular diseases, and test new drugs in clinical trials;
- Develop new ways to diagnose cardiovascular disease and harness the power of artificial intelligence from imaging and health records to identify people at highest risk; and
- Generate user-friendly risk communication and management tools to improve the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.

Prof 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 Cambridge addressing the biggest challenges in cardiovascular disease. This funding recognises the incredible research happening at Cambridge and will help to further its reputation 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.”

Research Excellence Awards provide greater flexibility than traditional research funding and enable scientists to launch ambitious projects quickly, potentially opening the door to larger funding applications.

The University of Cambridge has previously been awarded £9m from the scheme.

Among the outcomes was research showing how low doses of a cancer drug could improve recovery after a heart attack by boosting anti-inflammatory immune cells that can cause harmful inflammation in blood vessels supplying the heart. Clinical trials are under way.

A risk calculator to enable doctors across the UK and Europe to predict who is at risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years with greater accuracy was also created and has been adopted by the European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice.

Imaging and AI tools that improve diagnosis of heart and vascular disease have also been developed, while another study showed how the epilepsy medication sodium valproate could be used to reduce stroke risk in people with a common variant in the gene HDAC9, by blocking the activity.

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