With the World Health Organization forecasting an increase in cardiovascular deaths worldwide, the charity’s Big Beat Challenge is a global initiative to galvanise researchers and inspire transformational solutions to tackle the world’s biggest killer. Launched in August 2018, it is a global competition offering a single research award of up to £30million.
The BHF challenged researchers to form international, multi-disciplinary teams and submit outline research proposals that would be transformative, with a clear route to patient benefit, and that would only be possible with funding on this scale. The ideas could completely transform the lives of a few or provide a smaller but important change for many.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Heart and circulatory diseases remain the number one cause of death worldwide. We’re taking small steps forward every year but what’s needed is a giant leap, which won’t be achieved by a business-as-usual approach. The Big Beat Challenge embodies our ambition to turbo-charge progress and could lead to its own ‘man on the moon’ moment. I have absolutely no doubt the winning idea will define the decade in their area.”
The University of Bristol is part of the consortium whose idea for next generation cardiovascular health technology is one of just four world-wide that have been shortlisted. ECHOES - Enhancing Cardiac care tHrOugh Extensive Sensing (ECHOES) is based on the principle that he single greatest obstacle to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of major chronic cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is the lack of medically relevant patient data obtained in daily life.
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. The consortium is led by Professor Frank Rademakers, Chief Medical Technology Officer at University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium.
Professor Ian Craddock from the University of Bristol is Director of SPHERE , a £20M project focused on home-monitoring of activity. If successful, ECHOES will further develop this applied bespoke home sensing to measure the quantity and quality of in-home behaviours (sleep, functional movement, movement between rooms, cooking, sedentarism) far exceeding the capability of patient-reported information. This will be correlated with other data in the study, to map an individual’s physiological, behavioural, environmental, and symptomatic data to build the world’s most comprehensive understanding of these relationships. From this, the aim is to identify the signatures of health and different forms of heart disease through clinical studies.
Dame Anne Glover, President of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and Independent Advisory Panel member, said: “All four shortlisted applications have identified big problems that desperately need to be addressed. They’ve submitted ideas that are different to anything the BHF has funded before, and the raw ambition, boldness and creativity of all teams is inspirational.
“Each member of the International Advisory Panel brings unique expertise and vision from the world of science, research and beyond. We’re intrigued to see the teams’ ideas flourish into full proposals and decide who will be given the chance to write their names into the history books by transforming heart and circulatory disease research.”
The four shortlisted teams have been given a small amount of seed funding and will spend the next six months putting together their full applications. These will be reviewed by subject experts and the three panels, and the teams will be interviewed by the IAP. Together, they will decide which proposal has the most promising chance of delivering a revolutionary advance towards better cardiovascular health.
The winner is expected to be announced at the end of 2020.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani added: “This is high-risk, high-reward research. We whole-heartedly believe in the transformational potential of the Big Beat Challenge to save and improve lives, both here in the UK and around the world. It represents the single biggest investment in pioneering science in the BHF’s 60-year history. In an ideal world, we’d like to fund all four as each one has the chance to make a monumental impact.”