The award – which sees Andrew Baker, Cardiovascular Research Centre, University of Glasgow, become a British Heart Foundation Professor of Translational Cardiovascular Sciences* – is worth more than £1.1 million. It will help him and his team to develop treatments for patients suffering from coronary heart disease and related complications. The award will also contribute towards new experiments and essential laboratory equipment at the University of Glasgow.
Baker’s professorship will advance several areas of research which aim to improve the success of procedures like bypass surgery. For example, one recently announced trial led by Baker will test a new gene therapy, 15 years in the making, on human patients for the first time. The “DNA therapy” aims to stop vein grafts blocking after bypass surgery, which is a big problem for patients. According to Motwani JG, et al (Circulation, 1998; 97: 916–931) around half of vein grafts fail within 10 years of surgery, often leaving patients needing further treatment.
“Treatments like bypass surgery help thousands of patients every year, but unfortunately they often do not last forever. We are looking for ways to help patients when they have heart surgery, to stop their symptoms from coming back in the future. We are using different tools, including DNA and stem cells, to try to make this happen, and we hope to have new treatments ready for heart patients within the next five to ten years. This award will give me and my team the chance to make faster progress, and we are thrilled we now have the funding we need to reach our goals,” said Baker.
Other potential treatments under development from Baker’s team include therapies that use stem cells to regrow lost or damaged blood vessels. Developing this type of ‘regenerative’ treatment is the aim of the BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal. Baker is also investigating the potential of tiny pieces of genetic material called micro RNAs in preventing complications after heart surgery.
Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said, “We are delighted that Andrew Baker has become our newest British Heart Foundation professor. We are hugely excited by his work, which is on the brink of developing new treatments for heart patients. His research gives hope to the millions of people in the UK – and hundreds of thousands in Scotland – who suffer from coronary heart disease.”
The BHF has invested around £37.5m into life-saving research at Scottish Universities over the past five years.
*‘Translational Science’ is the process of ‘translating’ discoveries made by scientists in the laboratory into new treatments for patients.