Record $75 million grant awarded for coronary heart disease research

A research team led by Calum MacRae, MD, chief of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, received a $75 million grant to support his five-year research project to better understand coronary heart disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA), Verily Life Sciences and AstraZeneca announced on Oct. 5 that MacRae and his team had won the One Brave Idea research award.

“One Brave Idea for me is a complete game-changer,” MacRae said in a YouTube video. “It’s a totally different way of thinking about the direction and the scale of the funding that’s available to move ideas forward in biomedical science.”

MacRae and his team plan on collecting genomic information, lifestyle data, public health data and responses from people with coronary heart disease in their families. They will then cross-reference that data with data from the Framingham Heart Study and the Million Veterans Program and identify traits that may be associated with the onset of coronary heart disease.

After that, they plan on identifying individuals who may be at an early risk of developing coronary heart disease. They will then develop preventative or pre-disease therapeutic strategies to reduce the coronary heart disease burden.

The AHA and the two companies began accepting applications for the One Brave Idea award in January. They plan on offering guidance to MacRae and his team along the way. They received submissions from 350 people who outlined their research concept on one page of paper.

“We announced One Brave Idea to disrupt the way that science is discovered, the way that teams of scientists come together, and the way that visions are created,” AHA CEO Nancy Brown said in the video. “One thing we hope to accomplish is that by taking away the barrier of money, that we’re able to seed a very innovative team that comes from a number of different disciplines to bring their strengths together to find a cure for coronary heart disease.”

The other members of MacRae’s team are:

  • Euan Ashley, director of the Center for Inherited Heart Disease and member of the Stanford University Data Science Initiative
  • Alberto-Lazlo Barabasi, director, Center for Complex Network Research, Northeastern University
  • Elazer Edelman, director, Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center; director, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology; professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Health Sciences and Technology at MIT; and Cardiology faculty member, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • J. Michael Gaziano, chief of the Division of Aging, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and national principal investigator, the Million Veteran Program (MVP)
  • David Grayzel, Partner, Atlas Ventures
  • Christopher O’Donnell, chief of Cardiology, West Roxbury V.A. and director, the Million Veteran Program (MVP)
  • Frederick ‘Fritz’ Roth, Canada research excellence chair, The Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto
  • Ramachandran Vasan, principal investigator, the Framingham Heart Study and chief, Preventative Medicine and Epidemiology, Boston University School of Medicine

“What is needed for moving biomedical science and, in particular, cardiovascular science forward is rethinking how people work together collaboratively for a shared goal,” MacRae said in the video. “When I saw the One Brave Idea announcement, it really made me think that this was an opportunity to bring all of those things that we have sort of existed separately together. That freedom gives us the chance to work with completely non-traditional partners to be creative in the ways in which we align everybody’s interest, we build new teams, we engage patients and their families and the whole population. One Brave Idea allows us to reimagine everything that we do.”