Research receives £5 million boost for ’world-leading’ cardiovascular research

Martin Bennett standing outside the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Heart and Lung Resea
Martin Bennett standing outside the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Heart and Lung Research Institute Credit: Lloyd Mann
The University of Cambridge has received £5 million funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to support its world-class cardiovascular disease research over the next five years, the charity has announced.

This is a fantastic achievement from the whole Cambridge team. This award will support our multiple research programmes.

Martin Bennett
The funding will support the university to cultivate a world-class research environment that encourages collaboration, inclusion and innovation, and where visionary scientists can drive lifesaving breakthroughs.

Professor 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 Cambridge award is part of a £35 million boost to UK cardiovascular disease research from the British Heart Foundation. It comes from the charity’s highly competitive Research Excellence Awards funding scheme. The £5 million award to the University of Cambridge will support 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.
  • Generate user-friendly risk communication and management tools to improve the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.

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 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 offer greater flexibility than traditional research funding, allowing scientists to quickly launch ambitious projects that can act as a springboard for larger, transformative funding applications.

The funding also aims to break down the silos that have traditionally existed in research, encouraging collaboration between experts from diverse fields. From clinicians to data scientists, biologists to engineers, the funding will support universities to attract the brightest minds, nurture new talent and foster collaboration to answer the biggest questions in heart and circulatory disease research.

The University of Cambridge has previously been awarded £9 million funding through the BHF’s Research Excellence Awards scheme. This funding has supported research that will lay the foundations for future breakthroughs, including:
  • Research showing that low doses of a cancer drug could improve recovery after a heart attack. The drug boosts activity of anti-inflammatory immune cells that can cause harmful inflammation in blood vessels supplying the heart. It’s currently being tested in clinical trials to see if it benefits patients.
  • A new risk calculator to enable doctors across the UK and Europe predict who is at risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years with greater accuracy. The calculator has been adopted by the European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice.
  • Developing imaging and artificial intelligence tools to improve diagnosis of heart and vascular disease by enhancing analysis of scans for disease activity and high-risk fatty plaques. These tools can be rapidly implemented to support diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
  • A study investigating whether an epilepsy medication could help to prevent strokes in people with a common gene variant. The change in the gene HDAC9 can cause it to become ’overactive’ and increase stroke risk. The epilepsy medication sodium valproate blocks the HDAC9 activity, so could reduce stroke risk in people with the variant.
  • Discovery of rare and common changes in the genetic code that influences proteins and small molecules in the blood, helping us understand the development of cardiovascular diseases and identify novel drug targets.

Adapted from a press release by BHF