Research receives £5 million funding boost from British Heart Foundation

University of Oxford research receives £5 million funding boost from British Heart Foundation

The British Heart Foundation has awarded the University of Oxford £5 million funding to support its world-class cardiovascular disease research over the next five years.

Researchers at the University welcomed the announcement. Professor Keith Channon, Head of the Radcliffe Department of Medicine and BHF Field Marshal Earl Alexander Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Oxford, who led the bid for the award, said: ’The BHF Research Excellence Award underscores the scale, scope and quality of our research in heart and circulatory diseases. The new funding will support cross-disciplinary initiatives that will benefit patients by linking biological discovery science with data science and physical sciences, and will help to train the next generation of new research leaders’.

Professor Angela Russell, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Oxford, who co-led the bid for the award, said: ’We are delighted to receive this new BHF Award which will allow us to build our connections with industry partners, and to pioneer a new entrepreneurship and innovation training programme to accelerate the development of future diagnostics and treatments for cardiovascular diseases’.

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

The Oxford award is part of a much needed £35 million boost to UK cardiovascular disease research from the British Heart Foundation. The funding comes from the charity’s highly competitive Research Excellence Awards funding scheme. The £5 million award to the University of Oxford will support researchers to:
  • Develop new tools and techniques - including artificial intelligence - that can bring together and analyse large amounts of clinical and imaging data to identify new mechanisms in cardiovascular disease, and develop new diagnostic tools/
  • Extend the research in heart repair and regeneration to other human cells and tissues that are important in people living with heart and circulatory diseases.
  • Test new drug treatments, identified from research discoveries, and ways of delivering drugs using ’smart’ targeting.

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 Oxford addressing the biggest challenges in cardiovascular disease. This funding recognises the incredible research happening at Oxford 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.

First launched in 2008, the University of Oxford has received over £20 million funding through the BHF’s Research Excellence Awards funding scheme to date. This funding has supported research that will lay the foundations for future breakthroughs, including:
  • Development of an artificial intelligence tool that could identify people at risk of a heart attack years in advance by spotting ’invisible’ warning signs in routine heart scans. The tool received its CE mark accreditation in 2021 from the EU and is currently being piloted at five NHS hospitals.
  • Discovery in mice that iron deficiency anaemia during early pregnancy increases the risk of a baby being born with a congenital heart defect. The research also suggested that iron supplementation during the earliest stages of pregnancy could greatly reduce the risk.
  • Research showing that short peptides derived from anti-inflammatory ’evasins’ released by ticks could be used to develop new treatments for diseases such as atherosclerosis.
  • Treatments for people with a dangerous heart rhythm disorder could be improved by research into the hormone calcitonin, which helps regulate bone mass and has been found to also be produced by the heart.

    University of Oxford research receives £5 million funding boost from British Heart Foundation