New Approaches to Cardiovascular Research Aim to Connect the Lab, Pharma Industry, and Patients

Despite decades of research, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It’s clear that tackling cardiovascular disease requires a new approach. That’s why today, researchers and heart health advocates are taking on heart disease, stroke, and other conditions from a variety of angles, from exploring precision medicine to driving clinical trial participation.

For example, the American Heart Association’s Precision Medicine Platform has expanded researchers’ ability to collaborate and leverage data to uncover insights and create better treatments and prevention approaches.

And, once a treatment is ready for clinical trials, the AHA has launched a new program to help patients get involved as well. Their latest program, Research Goes Red, launched on February 26 and engages women in clinical research, where they have traditionally been less represented.

In honor of American Heart Month and to learn more about the organization’s latest projects, we caught up with Prad Prasoon, Emerging Business & Technology Strategies Director, at the AHA. We discussed the importance of collaboration between researchers, and the need for "honest brokers" between industry and patients – and where the AHA is stepping in.

Antidote: Tell me about the impetus behind the AHA’s Precision Medicine Platform.

Prad Prasoon: The Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine and the precision medicine platform is focused on trying to accelerate scientific discoveries within the realm of precision medicine using the power of data and technology. Research is at the heart of everything AHA does and we fund basic science, population science and clinical science with increasing focus on precision science as we slowly move from a science research organization to a scientific research technology data organization. The way to do that was through a dedicated focus on the cardiovascular side, bringing together diverse data sets and making them searchable and discoverable to the scientific research community. Leveraging AHA’s science and research portfolio that also funds grants , Institute for precision cardiovascular medicine has have a dedicated portfolio of grants that focus on using power of data , technology, data science, machine learning, Artificial intelligence to look at how data can be used to drive research in a more innovative way than before.

Antidote: Low clinical trial participation is a very well-known barrier to research progress. How is the AHA getting involved in solving that piece of the puzzle?

Prasoon: Patients are concerned about a lot of privacy issues and regulatory issues. For a group like AHA and others that are trusted , honest brokers, conveners and represent the interests of people it is easier for individuals to come to an association like ours rather than come through a more traditional - channel. Today, we are finding that more and more people — especially in the younger generations — are more open to joining groups and advancing scientific research.There is this educational learning curve around joining a clinical trial and what that means.

Antidote: What current heart disease research projects are you excited about?

Prasoon: One Brave Idea is a scientific research enterprise formed under a strategic business relationship between American Heart Association and Verily Life Sciences , with significant support from AstraZeneca. It's based on a notion of "let’s go after a big problem, together as one team, and pursue the idea and solutions in unique private-public partnership as an example." We’re quite excited about the work that’s happening in One Brave Idea. It opens up lots opportunities to pursue and drive innovation . One Brave Idea could also be seen as an example of a "mega-grant", in this case a $75 million grant with one team, and 5 years to support them in a new novel and different ways, leading to breakthroughs. That’s the whole idea of trying to pursue models that are different from what you normally see.

Antidote: Can you share more about how these models are different from what’s been done in the past?

Prasoon: One Brave Idea is one example of a public-private group coming together to advance work. We have also been working on several other innovative models powered through strategic business relationships. .

One of the newly formed centers is the Center for Accelerated Drug Discovery formed in a strategic business relationship with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Together, we will combine world-class technology and high impact biology to develop a comprehensive reference atlas of cell-protein targets to accelerate and hone drug discovery.Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has one the fastest super computing infrastructure in the world and with their help we will create a simulated environment that precisely predicts how drugs bind to their target proteins and generate a robust drug discovery pipeline and validate targeted drug hypotheses that have higher probabilities of success while reducing time to market by potentially 50 percent. This collaboration accentuates the role of an honest broker between federal government, industry, pharma/biotech, and scientific research, with AHA being the convener and acting as an honest broker. This is another unique innovative example of how some of these models can be deployed to drive change and impact.

Last but not the least, to assure that innovations are introduced into the healthcare system to benefit patients as quickly as possible and with evidence to demonstrate their impact, the American Heart Association, together with Royal Philips and UPMC launched Cardeation Capital, a USD 30 million collaborative venture capital fund designed to spur healthcare innovation in heart disease and stroke care. Cardeation Capital will invest in emerging healthcare companies that can measurably impact the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and stroke and their risk factors. This will assist in rapidly bring products and solutions to market that address critical areas of healthcare delivery and health management.

All these give a peek on how the American Heart Association is combining emerging technologies with ground-breaking science, and accelerating innovation in healthcare.