The University of Birmingham is one of six universities in the UK to receive a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Accelerator Award in recognition of its excellence in cardiovascular research – in particular, atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure, thrombo-inflammation and vascular biology.
The £1 million award will boost all cardiovascular research in Birmingham, from discovery science to patient benefit, that is coordinated in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences (ICVS) and translated uniquely by Birmingham Health Partners (BHP) – a strategic alliance between the University and two NHS Foundation Trusts: University Hospitals Birmingham and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s. Research enabled by the grant will be supported by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust (SWBH).
Award director Professor Paulus Kirchhof, who is Director of the ICVS, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine within the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and Consultant Cardiologist working across BHP and SWBH, explained: “This award recognises that we have a strong cohort of emerging leaders and upcoming researchers, whose work will be supported by this vital funding. This investment will greatly accelerate translation of new scientific discoveries to develop new treatments for patients in the city and beyond.”
The BHF Accelerator Award will create a joined-up research pipeline from discovery science to health services research, including the provision of integrated training for scientists and clinical academics. Researchers will also have greater access to super-resolution imaging, complex disease models, clinical research infrastructure and, crucially, large datasets – all of which will help advance their research from bench to bedside.
The award will also fund a number of new positions that will help to integrate research excellence, including new research nurse capacity in local hospitals, data scientists working within the Midlands Health Data Research UK (HDR-UK) and fundamental researchers embedded into the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and the Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE).
In awarding these grants, the BHF has taken the unusual step of giving researchers the freedom to direct their own research, rather than providing funds for a specific project. It’s hoped that this model will empower researchers to launch higher-risk projects and to attract talent by offering start-up fellowships.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation said: “It usually takes more than a one-off project to answer the biggest questions in science. The flexible funding offered by these awards breaks down scientific barriers and injects creativity into the UK’s heart and circulatory disease research community.”
“Our investment through these awards will bring together the best and brightest minds across medicine, tech and engineering to foster collaboration and encourage innovative thinking.”
“We are very proud to have made these awards, which are only possible through the continued generosity of the public who support us. The awards not only recognise the world-leading research already being carried out in heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, but also help to safeguard our future as a global scientific leader in this area.”