Research is vital to beating Covid-19 for people with heart and circulatory diseases

by Fitcoachion | Last Updated: May 15, 2020


Originally published at bhf.org.uk, written by Professor Sir Nilesh Samani

Thanks to 60 years of public support, we’ve become a global leader in funding heart and circulatory disease research, which has helped to improve and save millions of lives.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation

But as the world responds to a pandemic on a scale unseen for a century, we’re having to work harder than ever to protect our life saving work while playing our part in fighting coronavirus (Covid-19).

Our priority throughout has been to minimise the devastating impact of Covid-19 on people with heart and circulatory diseases, many of who are at increased risk.

We’re there for those in need

In recent weeks, thousands of people have benefited from the health information we’re providing, and our dedicated Heart Helpline nurses have been working around the clock to provide valuable guidance to those in need.

We’ve also enabled our researchers, many of whom are clinicians and cardiologists, to join the NHS frontline. I’m inspired every day by stories of those who are swapping lab coats for hospital gowns to join the NHS teams throughout the country treating Covid-19.

Similarly, we’ve made our infrastructure available for the national ramp-up of testing — vital for the UK’s exit from lockdown. For example, labs in Imperial and Glasgow have become testing centres to enable more testing, more quickly, and many of our PhD students have been redeployed to support the national testing effort.

We must continue to support medical research

But an equally important part of our strategy to fight the virus is to continue doing what we do best — supporting medical research. Since the pandemic began, we’ve worked tirelessly to maintain the progress our heart and circulatory disease research is already making, at the same time as directing our expertise to finding new ways of combating Covid-19.

I want to tell you about two important ways we’re doing this.

We’re supporting research to beat the virus

Like you, we’ve been concerned by the emerging evidence that people with heart and circulatory disease are often at higher risk of dying from Covid-19. Only research can help us understand why, and lead to new treatments that could prevent some of these deaths.

In responding to this challenge, we’ve encouraged our researchers to direct their current funding towards Covid-19. As just one example, Professor James Moon and his BHF-funded team at University College London have initiated a clinical trial of healthcare professionals that could reveal why some people are at higher risk from Covid-19 than others.

Likewise, we need research to answer questions including how Covid-19 impacts the cardiovascular system, why people with heart and circulatory disease are at higher risk of severe illness, and what treatments might be most effective for these patients.

To answer these questions we’ve rapidly launched an initiative with the National Institute for Health Research to support flagship projects to understand the devastating impact of Covid-19 in cardiovascular health. This could save lives worldwide.

Covid-19

While this work is incredibly important and urgent, the global burden of heart and circulatory disease isn’t going to go away. At the same time, we must continue with our research mission to tackle cardiovascular diseases.

We’re protecting our life saving research

With your support, we’ve grown to become the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK. Today we’re actively funding around 900 active grants, involving over 1500 talented individuals whose discoveries will save and improve lives. I’m proud to say we’re world leaders in our field, but we can’t let this pandemic threaten the progress we’re making.

Unfortunately much of our research has been disrupted, with universities closing and clinical trials delayed. To ensure patients still see the benefits of this research, we’ve committed to supporting current projects through to successful completion, even if postponed, and we’re continuing to pay our researchers’ salaries. At the same time, we are doing our best to fund new life-saving research.

This commitment comes at a time our income is falling sharply. In addition to the UK public’s generous support, we’re looking to work in partnership with the Government to minimise the pandemic’s impact on research focused on tackling the world’s most devastating diseases.

Science is as important as ever

In my lifetime, I’ve never seen research take centre stage in the way it has over the last few months. The world is looking to researchers to navigate us out of this crisis, and I’ve no doubt that the global scientific community is up to the challenge. At the BHF, we are intent on playing our part.

However, the impact of Covid-19 is being felt across the UK research and charity ecosystem. This crisis is costing us around £10 million a month and in light of a continuing decline in income, we need the public’s support more than ever to continue our life saving work.

This is a challenging time, but with your support, we will get through it. Rest assured that our commitment to supporting world-leading research to beat heart and circulatory diseases remains as strong as ever.

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Originally published at https://www.bhf.org.uk.


Research is vital to beating Covid-19 for people with heart and circulatory diseases was originally published in British Heart Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.