A shortlist of four projects competing for a £30 million award has been revealed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) as the charity looks to galvanise researchers and inspire transformation solutions to cardiovascular diseases.
Launched in August 2018, the Big Beat Challenge is designed to push the international research community to identify a real-world challenge, significant unmet need or opportunity for game-changing innovation in cardiovascular science or medicine.
Four international teams have now been invited to submit full applications with the hope of winning the funding award.
The researchers will develop a treatment that targets and silences the faulty genes responsible for cardiomyopathies – diseases of the heart muscle that can lead to sudden death or heart failure at an early age.
By combining a deep understanding of underlying genetic mechanisms with new technologies, the team aims to stop the progressive damage caused by genetic heart muscle diseases, and even halt it before it starts.
Led by Professor Hugh Watkins FRS, Radcliffe Professor of Medicine, and BHF chairholder, at the University of Oxford, UK.
The researchers plan to create a solution for heart failure by developing a hybrid heart. They will design, build, test and implant a hybrid heart that consists of a soft robotic shell that forms the soft artificial muscles and sensors to enable natural motion, and a tissue-engineered lining to make sure all the surfaces in contact with blood are safe.
The energy transfer will be wireless. The vision is that this could replace the need for human heart transplantation and give hope to those around the world who are desperately waiting for a donated organ.
Led by Jolanda Kluin, Professor of Translational Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The team will develop wearable technology that can be used in daily life to capture more data than ever before. From symptoms and physical activity to heart function and air quality, this information could be used alongside genetic and healthcare data to transform diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of heart and circulatory diseases through the creation of a digital twin.
Led by Professor Frank Rademakers, Chief Medical Technology Officer at University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium.
The team will use cutting-edge technologies to build the first 3D “google map” of human atherosclerosis – the fatty deposits that develop in arteries – and gain new understanding into how and why the immune defence system goes awry and causes the disease.
This deep mapping work will reveal new targets for immunotherapy to combat atherosclerosis, and may lead to a new wave of medicines and vaccines that can prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Led by Professor Ziad Mallat, BHF Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Cambridge, UK.
The teams will now start work on full applications, with a winner expected to be announced at the end of 2020.