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BHF awards record £35mn to UK universities to further cardiovascular research

A man's hand checks watch monitoring his heart rate. By Nik on Unsplash

Nine universities will share the £35 milion, which comes from the British Heart Foundation’s Research Excellence Awards scheme, and is to support them in developing research environments that encourage collaboration, inclusion and innovation, and enable lifesaving breakthroughs to be made.

The funding will enable 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. 

It also aims to break down silos in research by helping universities attract experts from diverse fields, nurture new talent and foster collaboration on these issues.


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The nine universities will each receive between £1 million and £5 million and 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. 

Professor Bryan Williams, BHF 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.”

The Research Excellence Awards were first launched in 2008, with Accelerator Awards introduced in 2019. Since then, BHF has invested over £90 million at 12 universities across the scheme, supporting research that has laid the foundations for future breakthroughs. This has included the development of an artificial intelligence tool that could identify people at risk of a heart attack years in advance, which is currently being piloted at five NHS hospitals; the development of a biodegradable gel that could help to repair damaged hearts; and a trial that showed a simple scan could save thousands of lives every year by improving the diagnosis of people coming to hospital with chest pain. This scan is now recommended as a first-line diagnostic tool in NICE guidelines for people presenting at hospital with chest pain.

Back in April, Cancer Research UK also announced a significant funding boost for research – it is providing £58.7mn for universities across Scotland and England to train more doctors as clinician scientists so they can undertake cancer research.