University of Leeds researchers lead £20 million fight against cardiovascular diseases

Health news

Researchers from the University of Leeds are leading the fight against heart diseases thanks to more than £20 million of funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

About 55 research projects based at the University are funded by BHF, which has outlined its ambition to reduce premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases by 25% by 2025 through increasing its investment in research and reducing the time it takes to turn new discoveries into life-saving medical treatments.

Research breakthroughs have played a major role in the halving of premature deaths in the under 75s over the last 20 years. Advances in heart attack treatments mean 70 per cent of victims leave hospital alive and the use of statins is helping millions cut their risk of having a heart attack.

The BHF has launched “We fight for every heartbeat: Our strategy to 2020” to continue this downward trend, with University of Leeds School of Medicine researchers at the forefront.

Collectively, cardiovascular diseases cause more than one in four of all deaths in Britain and 82,000 people in the Leeds area live with heart conditions.

Mark Kearney, BHF Professor of Cardiovascular and Diabetes Research at the University of Leeds, is leading research into how diabetes increases a person’s risk of dying from a heart attack.

The death rate after a heart attack in patients with type 2 diabetes has not improved over the past 10 years. 

The University is also a pioneering centre for imaging the heart and its blood vessels. Professor Sven Plein, a BHF Senior Research Fellow at Leeds, is using MRI scanners to diagnose heart disease or damage. This technique could be much better for patients than more commonly used ones which require the patient to be exposed to harmful radiation.

Dr Helen Philippou will be using part of the funding to develop lead candidates for a new breed of anticoagulants that are devoid of bleeding risk.

And Dr Chris Gale will pool data from the national registries of cardiovascular disease, based at the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research, University College London, and link them to administrative data from patient hospital visit statistics.

The dataset will be used to map the entire treatment pathways and outcomes of about a million National Health Service patients with heart attack. The project aims to describe where cumulative missed opportunities for care arise and identify the consequences of non-adherence to guideline recommendations – allowing efficient discovery of interventions that may reduce preventable deaths.

Professor Kearney said: “Far too many people die prematurely from cardiovascular diseases in Leeds and across the UK. But through our research we’re fighting back.

“By carrying out research into the increased risk of heart attacks in people with diabetes and improving diagnoses of people with heart disease before they have a heart attack, we could save thousands of lives.”

Further information

Watch the BHF video here

Contact Ben Jones in the press office on +44 (0)113 343 8059 or email