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Press Releases

October 05, 2016

International Team Led by Calum MacRae Selected for One Brave Idea Research Award to Fight Coronary Heart Disease

Calum MacRae, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and an international team of collaborators have been selected from among hundreds of applicants to receive the One Brave Idea Research Award. This five-year, $75 million award from the American Heart Association (AHA), Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) and AstraZeneca will support innovative, joint initiatives that seek a cure for coronary heart disease (CHD). The award will fund the team’s work, under MacRae’s leadership, to define the earliest genetic and molecular markers of CHD in order to prevent the disease’s onset and to build a lasting global consortium to support CHD investigations.

“Decades before we see the devastating consequences of coronary heart disease, biological changes are happening that can eventually lead to coronary obstruction, heart failure and sudden death. Our ambition is to redefine coronary heart disease by pinpointing the very first changes so that we can detect them in the entire population at an earlier age,” said MacRae. “We have assembled a diverse core team of investigators who are committed to working across traditional boundaries to transform our understanding of CHD and translate those findings into better patient care. I am deeply grateful to my collaborators and to the AHA, Verily and AstraZeneca for sharing in this vision.”

MacRae and leaders from MIT, the Stanford University Data Science Initiative, Northeastern University, the Million Veteran Program, University of Toronto and Boston University School of Medicine along with advice from Atlas Venture, will look beyond traditional markers such as LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein, identifying upstream biologic or cellular traits as well as behavioral features with a clear genetic basis that can be used as earlier, more definitive biomarkers of CHD. The team will begin by looking at families with premature CHD. They will then validate novel traits and associations by looking in much larger populations from the Framingham Heart Study and Million Veterans Program and continue to expand on this by using online tools to recruit families and cohorts. Finally, the team will define preventative therapeutic strategies that can be tested in large, simple trials.

“Alone, each of our organizations has helped to transform our understanding of coronary artery disease. Yet, for all the success we have had, there has been no legacy of resources upon which to continue building,” said MacRae. “Our project will create a global consortium to support programs from idea conception to clinical realization, and establish a lasting resource for future research endeavors in cardiovascular and other chronic disease.”

MacRae’s work extends the Brigham’s long tradition as a leader in cardiology, innovative research and patient care.

“Calum’s vision of how we approach CHD from both a research perspective and diagnostic perspective is inspiring, and embodies our hospital’s commitment to scalable innovation and to discoveries that can transform patient care,” said Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women’s Health Care.

The core group of investigators and advisors leading this work will include:

  • Elazer Edelman, Director of the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center, a Professor in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program, and Professor of Medicine at HMS; who is also a Cardiology faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Euan Ashley, Director of the Center for Inherited Heart Disease, and a member of the Stanford University Data Science Initiative;
  • Alberto-Lazlo Barabasi, director of the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University;
  • Michael Gaziano, Chief of the Division of Aging at BWH and National PI, of the Million Veteran Program (MVP);
  • Christopher O’Donnell, Chief of Cardiology, Boston VA Healthcare and Scientific Director of the MVP; who is also a Cardiology faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital;
  • David Grayzel, Partner at Atlas Ventures;
  • Frederick Roth, Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, University of Toronto and the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Sinai Health System in Toronto;
  • Vasan Ramachandran, the principal investigator of the Framingham Heart Study and Chief of Preventative Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine.