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The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has awarded the University of Oxford £6 million to further develop the Oxford BHF Centre of Research Excellence (Oxford BHF CRE) for the next 5 years.

Professor Hugh Watkins, Director of the Oxford BHF CRE said “We are delighted to have achieved this renewed support from the BHF.

“We will use this fantastic opportunity to build on all that has been achieved in Oxford since the BHF CRE was initiated in 2008, by supporting our cardiovascular researchers to target selected areas where we believe we are poised to deliver world leading progress. 

“The previous BHF Research Excellence awards have been transformative, as we have been able to use their unique flexibility to build capacity and engineer research opportunities and to achieve a common sense of purpose, and thereby enhance ambition and momentum.”

The Oxford BHF CRE channels this BHF funding into nurturing future cardiovascular research leaders, creating and supporting opportunities for collaborations across the globe, and ensuring access to the key enabling technologies which are critical to allow researchers to compete at the highest level.

With this new round of funding, the Oxford BHF CRE has four key research themes, in areas where it sees clear potential to deliver world leading advances. The CRE will marshal multidisciplinary resources to make a concerted effort in important, tractable areas of cardiovascular science and medicine where Oxford scientists believe they can make a difference. In doing this the CRE expects to further raise the level of ambition and the scope for delivery for people living with heart disease. The four themes are:

Big Data, to be led by Prof Sir Rory Collins, to incorporate population health sciences and new developments in Oxford’s Big Data Institute and include contributions from image analysis, bioengineering, genetic and biomarker approaches in complex traits.

Human Genetics, to be led by Prof Hugh Watkins, to span inherited diseases (gene discovery, phenotyping, disease mechanisms and clinical application of genetic testing) through to post-GWAS functional analyses, including model organism and cell biology approaches aiming to extract biological insight from genetically validated mechanisms.

Target Discovery, to be led by Prof Keith Channon, will incorporate the best of our hypothesis driven, disease mechanism research where efforts are specifically targeted to discovery of tractable targets and medicinal chemistry approaches (existing partnerships with Chemistry and the Target Discovery Institute and new links with the Structural Genomics Consortium and the Interdisciplinary Science building).

Development & Regeneration, to be led by Prof Paul Riley, with a focus on the underlying biology of cardiac and vascular development, modelling congenital heart disease and also ways in which developmental processes inform approaches to regeneration science.

The Centre is led by Oversight and Steering Committees, representing the main research themes.

The BHF has committed £34m to supporting centres of research excellence and accelerator awards to 12 universities across the UK. Further information here.