COVID-19: BHF and NIHR work together to understand why cardiovascular increases risk of virus

Simon Ray

A press release reports that the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the National Institute of Health research (NIHR) have joined forces to launch a nationwide research initiative to better understand why people with heart and circulatory diseases are at higher risk and often suffer more severely with COVID-19.

The initiative, which builds on an existing partnership between the organisations, will provide a new framework for the rapid set-up and delivery of urgent, high impact Covid-19 research projects across the UK. The collaboration, which is also supported by the British Cardiovascular Society, the BHF Data Science Centre and Health Data Research UK, is now calling for applications to establish flagship projects.

The framework aims to galvanise the UK’s leading cardiovascular researchers and create a streamlined, coordinated, UK-wide approach to research projects to fast-track advances in our understanding of COVID-19. Both the BHF and the NIHR say the resources available, through the infrastructure they fund, can be repurposed and deployed to nationally prioritised COVID-19 research. There will also be opportunities for additional resources and funding for high quality projects that are deemed a national priority.

The partners say that the strategy for tackling this pandemic must include urgent research to explain why people with heart and circulatory diseases are more susceptible, understand cardiovascular complications of COVID-19 and uncover the best treatments for these vulnerable patients. There is also an important need to better understand the impact of the pandemic on the normal care of patients with heart and circulatory diseases.

According to the press release, the partnership brings together experts funded by the BHF and NIHR to drive forward cutting-edge research. It will capitalise on existing infrastructure and datasets to accelerate breakthroughs in our understanding of COVID-19 and crucially, how it interacts with the heart and circulation.

Simon Ray, president at the British Cardiovascular Society, comments: “We know that some patients living with heart and circulatory disease can have particular problems if they become infected with COVID-19 and also that the virus can cause damage to the heart. This research collaboration provides a unique opportunity to bring together expertise from all over the UK to answer important questions about how the virus causes these problems and how its effects can be detected and treated.”

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