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BHF awards £35 million funding to top UK universities

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Nine leading universities will benefit from a record £35 million funding injection from us that will help to strengthen world-leading cardiovascular disease research in the UK. 

The funding, through our Research Excellence Awards scheme, will support universities to cultivate world-class research environments that encourage collaboration, inclusion and innovation, and enable visionary scientists to drive lifesaving breakthroughs.  
 
After years of disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty over the UK’s association with the Horizon funding programme, the awards give UK cardiovascular disease research a much-needed boost.

The funding will enable cutting-edge research to address some of the most pressing issues in cardiovascular disease, including regenerative medicine to prevent and treat heart failure, improving diagnosis with artificial intelligence, the impact of health inequalities, genes and the risk of heart disease, vascular dementia, the role of the immune system in heart disease, and how type 2 diabetes can lead to heart failure.

The funding comes from the our highly competitive Research Excellence Awards funding scheme. The nine universities, which will each receive between £1 million and £5 million, are: Imperial College London, King’s College London, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds, University of Leicester, University of Manchester, University of Oxford and University College London. The awards will provide funding over the next five years.  

Springboard for further funding

Research Excellence Awards offer researchers 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, and biologists to engineers, the funding will support universities to attract the brightest minds, nurture new talent and foster collaboration to tackle the biggest questions in cardiovascular disease research. 

 

Professor Bryan Williams, our Chief Scientific and Medical Officer, said: “We’re delighted to announce this record funding to enable researchers to address the biggest challenges in cardiovascular disease research. These awards not only recognise the world-class research already happening in the UK, but will also help to safeguard the UK’s future as global leader in cardiovascular disease research. 

 

“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.” 

Future breakthroughs

The Research Excellence Awards were first launched in 2008, with Accelerator Awards introduced in 2019. Since then, we have invested over £90 million at 12 universities across the scheme, supporting research that has laid 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, developed at the University of Oxford, is currently being piloted at five NHS hospitals. 

Development of a biodegradable gel that could help to repair damaged hearts. Researchers showed that the gel can be safely injected into the beating heart to act as a scaffold for cells to grow into new heart tissue. They hope that it could form a new generation of treatments to repair damage caused by a heart attack. 

A trial led at the University of Edinburgh that showed that a simple scan could save thousands of lives every year by improving the diagnosis of people coming to hospital with chest pain. The scan is now recommended as a first-line diagnostic tool in NICE guidelines for people presenting at hospital with chest pain.

Our research successes

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