University College London Awarded £1M to Advance Heart Research Using Computational Biology
To help those with heart and circulatory disorders live longer and better lives, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has awarded the University College London (UCL) a £1 million grant (about $1.28 million) over five years.
Specifically, funding from the BHF Research Accelerator Award will help UCL build a research team that will focus on data science and computational biology — using biological data to develop mathematical models to understand biology.
Part of the funding will be used to strengthen and grow vital National Health Service (NHS) partnerships beyond University College London Hospitals, including with the Royal Free Hospital — a national referral center for pulmonary hypertension. That hospital is part of the Royal Free London, which has wide experience in all types of pulmonary hypertension, and provides support to other U.K. centers.
Led by Aroon Hingorani, director of the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science, the team will focus on machine learning to develop tools and insights necessary to better predict, diagnose, and treat heart and circulatory diseases, including disorders such as pulmonary hypertension, or PH.
“The UCL Accelerator has been designed with the purpose of fostering multidisciplinary collaboration across UCL faculties, coalescing expertise in cardiovascular and population science, health informatics, computer science, engineering and computational biology through jointly supervised academic posts,” Hingorani added.
The funding will benefit several digital healthcare projects, including ones using artificial intelligence.
Unlike traditional research grants, which fund specific projects, both the BHF Accelerator and Research Excellence awards support more general work in research institutions, enabling faster research advancement. The Accelerator Award is meant to attract early-career scientists to pioneering research in the fields of heart and circulatory disease.
“Despite the medical advances powered by research, 420 people in the UK [United Kingdom] still die every day because of heart and circulatory diseases,” said Metin Avkiran, BHF’s associate medical director. “That’s why we’re continuing to invest in research and supporting our scientists to make new life-saving discoveries.”
Considered a rare disease, pulmonary hypertension is estimated to affect one to two individuals per million each year in the U.S., with a similar incidence in Europe. In 2016, it was estimated that 6,000 to 7,000 people in the U.K. had the disease.