UK charity British Heart Foundation (BHF) has teamed up with Health Data Research UK (HDRUK), the national institute for health and data science, to establish a £10 million data science centre.
The charity says the BHF Data Science Centre will work in partnership with patients, the public, NHS, researchers and clinicians to promote the safe and ethical use of data for research into the causes, prevention and treatment of all disease of the heart and circulation.
The centre’s work will be supported by HDRUK’s secure health data infrastructure and benefit from alignment with HDRUK’s existing network of experts, its recently announced Health Data Research hubs and wider cardiovascular research community. A spokesperson for HDRUK said the centre will not have a physical location as it will operate as a virtual team across the UK.
The centre will work with data controllers to provide the necessary knowledge and expertise to assist researchers from the NHS, academia and industry find, access, understand and connect the UK’s cardiovascular ‘big data’ that is distributed across national registries, NHS electronic medical records and other relevant datasets.
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Professor Cathie Sudlow, a stroke and neurology doctor in Edinburgh and currently chief scientist of UK Biobank, has been selected to lead the centre.
Sudlow said: “As a doctor who has had the privilege of caring patients, as well as conducting and enabling research studies that rely on large-scale patient data, I’m delighted to be leading this new centre.
“Cardiovascular disease affects the lives of more than seven million people in the UK and remains one of the largest causes of death and disability, despite major progress over the past two decades.
“This new centre provides the UK with an unprecedented opportunity to use data for research that will deliver strategies for prevention, innovative new therapies and medical breakthroughs that will ultimately improve the lives of people affected by cardiovascular disease.”
Sudlow is now tasked with establishing the centre, shaping its mission and strategy, and ensuring the views of patients and the public are central to its activities. Sudlow and her core team will be based in the HDRUK head office in London.
The charity is confident that the high impact outputs produced by the new centre will help to shape better cardiovascular health services, provide patients and health professionals with the tools to make better decisions, and ensure new cutting-edge treatments reach UK patients faster than ever before.
Nilesh Samani, medical director of the BHF, said: “The UK is blessed with many world-class heart and circulatory disease researchers, spanning a wide range of disciplines. But, as we enter the era of digital medicine, there’s a growing need to foster excellence in data science.
“At the BHF, we recognise the enormous potential of data science and want to create an environment where we can realise that potential. That’s why we’re working with the health research community, key stakeholders, professional bodies and UK data controllers to create the BHF Data Science Centre.”
Andrew Morris, director of Health Data Research UK, said: “This centre has the opportunity to transform what we know about heart and cardiovascular disease. Using cutting-edge data science techniques, public engagement, and some of the best cardiovascular health data sets in the world, it will provide a solid foundation for some of the most formative research for decades to come.”