University of Leicester receives share of £34m BHF investment to help safeguard UK’s world-class research status

Funding will focus on strengthening research into precision medicine.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has this week announced £34 million of new funding across 12 universities, in a step that bolsters world-class, UK-led heart and circulatory disease research.

The University of Leicester has received an Accelerator Award for £1 million over five years. Under the leadership of Professor Gavin Murphy, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiac Surgery, the group will use this award to focus on precision medicine, building on their research in areas including genomics, biomarker discovery, imaging, stroke medicine, vascular surgery and new cardiovascular interventions.

Professor Murphy said: “The BHF Accelerator provides discretionary funding to attract promising researchers at the beginning of their careers to Leicester where we will provide the resources, training, and mentorship to enable them to progress to independence. These research fellowships will also be strategic with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity and the requirement that the fellows develop key skills that are essential to the success of UK life sciences research over the coming decades.”

At a time when the impact of Brexit on UK-based researchers remains unclear, the funding boost sends a clear message that the UK remains committed to supporting a world-leading research environment. The award empowers universities to attract and nurture the very best talent and enables the agility needed to exploit new ideas and technologies.

The awards come from two highly-competitive BHF funding schemes: the Research Excellence Awards, which were first launched in 2008, and new Accelerator Awards. The awards provide funding for the next five years and are aimed at empowering researchers to undertake innovative science, break down boundaries and spark new collaborations in heart and circulatory disease research.

Other Research Excellence Awards were made to the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College London, King’s College London and Oxford. The Accelerator Awards have been made to the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Queen Mary University of London and University College London. Each institution will use the funding to foster research excellence in different areas of heart and circulatory diseases.

Unlike traditional research grants, which award funding to a specific project, these flexible awards give the power of choice to researchers. The innovative funding model is particularly designed to allow researchers to launch higher risk research and to attract talent by offering start-up fellowships. This enables the most innovative, dynamic and inspirational research to get rapidly off the ground, without the need for new funding applications.

The awards also encourage experts from diverse fields to come together to tackle the biggest questions in heart and circulatory disease research. From biologists to engineers, clinicians to mathematicians: the varied perspectives and knowledge foster innovative, high-quality thinking. The awards will support diverse fields of research, including vascular medicine, population studies, genetics, drug discovery, regenerative medicine, and using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to develop personalised healthcare. They also provide a strong foundation to enable researchers to leverage additional funding.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation and Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester 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 and pleased to have made the awards which are only possible through the 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.”