Nilesh Samani

UK charity The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has announced its shortlist of four research projects competing for its Big Beat Challenge; a global competition, launched in August 2018, that is offering a single research award of up to £30m. The aim of the competition is to push the international research community to identify a real-world challenge, significant unmet need, or opportunity for game-changing innovation in cardiovascular science or medicine.

For the competition, the BHF has challenged researchers to form international, multidisciplinary 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 should have the potential to completely transform the lives of a few or to provide a smaller but important change for many.

The BHF received 75 applications, featuring team members from 40 countries. Since the call for applications closed in June 2019, these proposals have been reviewed to get down to the four most compelling ideas. Four international teams have been invited to submit full applications with the hope of winning the £30m funding award from the BHF:

  • A soft robotic heart: Jolanda Kluin (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands) and colleagues are seeking to create a solution for heart failure by developing a hybrid heart.
  • Mapping and treating atherosclerosis: Ziad Mallat (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK) et al aim to use use cutting-edge technologies to build the first 3D “Google map” of human atherosclerosis.
  • Next-generation cardiovascular health tech: Frank Rademakers (University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Belgium) and team plan to develop wearable technology that can be used in daily life to capture more data than ever before.
  • A cure for inherited, killer heart muscle diseases: Hugh Watkins (University of Oxford, Oxford, UK) and others are looking at developing a treatment that targets and silences the faulty genes responsible for cardiomyopathies.

Nilesh Samani, medical Director at the BHF, says: “Heart and circulatory diseases remain the number one cause of death worldwide. We are taking small steps forward every year but what is needed is a giant leap, which will not 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 teams will now start work on full applications, with a winner expected to be announced at the end of 2020.