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£6.5m grant to launch new heart disease Biomedical Research Centre

East Londoners are set to benefit from a £6.5m national grant that will enable world-leading researchers to turn theories within laboratories into reality, improving the care of local people with heart disease.

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The funding was secured by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Barts Health NHS Trust following a successful bid to provide a ‘one stop’ integrated discovery science and treatment centre in the heart of London to research heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.  

From the doorstep of many local people who help make up the 80,000 patients treated for heart disease at the Barts Heart Centre – one of Europe’s largest cardiovascular centres – world-leading experts will focus on inherited heart disease to address unmet clinical need and design the latest devices for diagnosis and treatment.  

By partnering with the technology industry and other academics including Yale University in the USA, the new National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR BRC) aims to encourage the development of new medical devices that will improve and save lives.

In particular, the hope is to initiate the first human trials of prospective new treatments and to explore existing drugs designed for other medical conditions to see if they could have alternative uses for cardiovascular patients.

NIHR BRC Director Professor Mark Caulfield at Queen Mary University of London said: “This award will provide amazing opportunities to bring the latest innovations into the care of patients with inherited heart disease and those in need of the latest devices. The new partnership offers a fantastic platform to reach six million people across north and east London. We’re going to use that platform and its extraordinary research infrastructure to develop a new generation of therapies, and bring the latest medicines and devices to the patients of the United Kingdom at the fastest possible pace.”

Alwen Williams, Chief Executive at Barts Health NHS Trust, explained: “I am proud of the new hope that this substantial award will bring to the many people facing the often devastating consequences of cardiovascular disease, and look forward to the many innovative and exciting advancements that I am sure we will begin to see.”

Professor Steve Thornton, Vice Principal (Health) at Queen Mary University of London, added: “This is a fantastic boost to our internationally leading cardiovascular research here at Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust.”

Cardiovascular disease remains the global number one killer (27 per cent of all deaths), with millions of people living with the disease. In the UK, 350,000 children and young adults have rare inherited cardiovascular conditions which are often disabling and can cause premature death. With current understanding medics are only able to give a diagnosis to 50 per cent of those affected, and cannot explain mutations in some patients.

Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London are among 20 NHS and university partnerships across England to be awarded funding through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Announcing the awards, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Today, we are making sure the UK stays ahead of the game by laying the foundations for a new age of personalised medicine. We are supporting the great minds of the NHS to push the frontiers of medical science so that patients in this country continue to benefit from the very latest treatments and the highest standards of care.”

More information

Further information on the awards is available on the Department of Health website.

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