21st November, 2023 – Web of Science Acknowledges Professor Derek Yellon and Professor Sean Davidson with Highly Cited Researcher Designation for 2023

Professor Derek Yellon has been acknowledged as a 2023 Highly Cited Researcher by the Web of Science™. This is the fifth such designation for Prof Yellon, achieving this recognition year on year, a remarkable achievement. Further, Professor Sean Davidson has also been recognised for a second consecutive year. Both have been named in the Cross-field category.

Identified from the world’s leading and most influential researchers, the 2023 report highlights those whose highly cited papers rank in the top 1% by citations within the 21 defined fields within the 2023 publication year in the Web of Science™.  This recognition places Prof Yellon and Prof Davidson amongst the leading scientists worldwide.

The quality of research from The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute for 2023 is exemplified by this accolade. Prof Yellon and Prof Davidson lead by example and have distilled in the entire team the commitment to continuous excellence and hard work. We anticipate 2024 will bring new and exciting outputs across our many research programmes including ischaemic heart disease, ischaemic stroke, cardio-toxicity following cancer therapy, cardio-renal syndrome and cardiometabolic disease.

Globally, the UK ranks 3rd, just below the USA (1st) and China(2nd). Of the top 50 institutions in this list, University College London has risen 3 places from 15th in 2022 up to 12th in this year’s report with a total of 57 individuals on the list, including Professor Yellon and Professor Davidson. The top 3 institutions were the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Harvard University and Stanford University.

The full report and list of 2023 recipients can be seen here:

 

August 10th, 2023 – Hatter Cardiovascular Institute Awarded 2 New UCL Grants

The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute is pleased to announce it has been successful in two recent UCL  calls.

The first award is from the UCL Translational Research Office, under the Therapeutic Acceleration Support (TAS) Call 10, which received an unprecedented number of applications. The award will support further research investigating protection of the heart with a novel small-molecule activator of the PI3Kα pathway. Myocardial infarction (heart attack) continues to be a major cause of mortality and morbidity world-wide. Based on our earlier research, which demonstrated the PI3Kα isoform enables cardioprotection by importantly reducing the myocardial ischaemia-reperfusion injury experienced during a myocardial infarction, our team then went on to discover a novel compound of this isoform which was recently published in Nature. We now endeavour to progress this compound further through a  translational pathway by undertaking ex vivo work using human myocardial tissue as a means of an initial step towards clinical translation. We believe this small-molecule PI3Kα activator could be a first-line therapy in patients experiencing myocardial infarction and be administered prior to reperfusion treatment in hospital, thus preventing irrevocable cardiac damage from heart attack.

Second, The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute has also been awarded funding from the UCL Global Engagement Fund. This programme provides support to UCL staff to collaborate with colleagues across the world, supporting a wide variety of activities including education, capacity building, global policy, and quality research initiatives. Together with the University of Cape Town, The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute has undertaken a pan-African clinical study, RIC Africa, with 4 African countries including South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya. This multi-country study, termed RIC-Africa, has established a research alliance between these 4 African countries, with ourselves at UCL as Lead. The RIC Africa study aims to evaluate a cardioprotective strategy that we have developed in the setting of high-risk patients who present with an acute myocardial infarction. Support from the UCL Global Engagement Fund will allow the Principal Investigators to hold a second annual meeting to importantly discuss in person the study progress, address challenges and pursue further funding opportunities.

We are grateful to these UCL programmes for their support which will allow us to progress our research and continue to work towards realising real-world benefit. Congratulations to our team in being recognised for their hard work and valuable research contributions.

23rd June, 2023 – The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute iBSc Student Awarded Top Research Lab Project

The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute had, this year, the pleasure of again supervising and mentoring top iBSc students in our laboratory. We are pleased to announce our student, Ms Meriam Abdelmoumene, has been recognised for her work, supervised by Prof Sean Davidson, with the award for the highest score in the wet research lab project category. This accomplishment means she will now be further nominated for the H.A.B. Simmons prize to be announced shortly.

Last year, another iBSc student at The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, Ms Sumayyah Tahsin, received top marks for her research project and went on to win the the 2022 UCL Population Health Sciences Faculty Medal (read story here).

This year on year success of iBSc students under our supervision highlights the leadership and expertise of the team at the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, of which we are very proud.

Many congratulations Meriam, we wish you the best of luck with the H.A.B. Simmons prize and all your future research endeavours!

30th May, 2023 – New Research by the HCI on Cardioprotection Published in Nature

In new research published this week in the prestigious journal Nature, The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute at UCL has demonstrated that a new drug called UCL-TRO-1938 is able to protect the heart from injury in experimental models of heart attack. UCL-TRO-1938 was developed as part of a large collaboration with colleagues at UCL, Cambridge University, and elsewhere, as a drug able to directly activate the PI3K∝ isoform associated with the RISK pathway. The RISK pathway (or “Reperfusion Injury Salvage Kinase pathway”) first described by Prof Derek Yellon, Director of the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute,  is an important pro-survival signalling pathway capable of protecting the heart from injury. Prof Yellon, Prof Davidson, and researchers at the Institute are now extending their studies to evaluate whether UCL-TRO-1938 might also be beneficial in related diseases where there is organ damage due to blockage in blood supply, such as ischaemic stroke.

When a patient arrives at hospital with an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) the first thing that needs to occur is for the immediate removal of the clot in the coronary and the rapid re-establishment of coronary artery blood flow (termed reperfusion). However, the process of reperfusion itself comes at a price in what has been termed “reperfusion-induced injury”. As such designing drugs to prevent reperfusion-induced injury has been the goal of basic & clinical scientists for many years. The British Heart Foundation has supported the research undertaken in the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute at UCL for over 20 years and could now be rewarded with the identification of this new compound, UCL-TRO-1938, which can protect the heart from injury following a heart attack.

The research within the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute at UCL, led by Prof Derek Yellon, has focused on the ability to activate pro-survival pathways in the cell, which can subsequently protect the muscle following a myocardial infarction or heart attack. This, pro-survival signalling pathway, was initially proposed by researchers at the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute in 2002 and called the “RISK pathway”.  Numerous studies were subsequently undertaken to demonstrate the ability of this pathway to protect the heart as well as investigate its downstream targets. This was followed by assessing which specific subtype or isoform of the PI3 Kinase pathway would offer the most protection.

Scientists within the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute undertook a range of fundamental studies and discovered that the alpha isoform of PI3 Kinase appeared to be the one that offered the most promise. As such, in a collaboration with the Cancer Institute at UCL, AstraZeneca (in their open innovation programme) and UCL’s Drug discovery group they developed a new compound which specifically activates the PI3K∝ isoform. This compound, UCL-TRO-1938, has been shown in experimental studies to protect the heart from ischaemia-reperfusion injury as well as enhance nerve regeneration and could lead to this class of drugs and therapies being used for a wide range of conditions.

Read our new Nature paper on the UCL-TRO-1938 compound here.

For further background, our recent review summarizing more than 3 decades of research in the field of cardioprotection that have highlighted the significance of the RISK pathway in the treatment of Ischaemic Reperfusion Injury can be read here.

 

6th May, 2023 – Inaugural RIC Africa PI Meeting Held in Cape Town

An inaugural meeting of RIC Africa Principal Investigators was held on May 6th at the Cape Heart Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa.  This provided an excellent opportunity for site investigators from participating countries to meet, share experiences of recruiting to the study, and discuss challenges and areas for improvement as we move ahead. The meeting provided an informative and interactive forum, fostering great discussion and camaraderie. We aim to make this an annual event for the duration of the RIC Africa trial.

Acute myocardial infarction and heart failure that follows are among leading causes of death and disability in sub-Saharan Africa.  In these low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) availability and access to modern, expensive infrastructure and interventions such as PPCI are limited and unlikely to change in the near future. As a result, of the STEMI patients who receive reperfusion, the majority are treated by thrombolysis and are more likely to develop heart failure and death post-STEMI, highlighting the higher-risk patient population. As a result, there remains an urgent unmet need to discover novel therapeutic interventions to improve clinical outcomes and prevent the onset of heart failure following STEMI in LMICs. The RIC-AFRICA trial was established to investigate whether remote ischaemic conditioning (RIC) can improve clinical outcomes in these higher-risk STEMI patients in sub-Saharan Africa treated by thrombolysis.

The RIC-AFRICA trial began a small pilot for recruitment in January 2022 to assess feasibility of undertaking this study in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and is now actively recruiting in 17 hospital sites across 4 countries: South Africa, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. Sadly, our Sudanese colleagues were unable to attend the meeting and we wish them all a peaceful outcome of the current troubles happening there. Many thanks to all of our investigators and their clinical teams, we are so grateful for your participation.

 

4th April, 2023 – Dr Lucie Pearce Completes Paris Marathon for CRY

We are proud to report that Dr Lucie Pearce, BHF Clinical Research Fellow at The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, has completed the Paris Marathon in a time of 5 hours and 27 minutes! Dr Pearce ran the marathon on behalf of Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), an important charity focussed on preventing young sudden cardiac deaths through awareness, screening, and research, and supporting affected families.

With an injury making her unable to complete the London Marathon in October, Dr Pearce re-channelled her focus to Paris and was able to run a remarkable race. Through her efforts, Dr Pearce was able to raise £1500 for CRY to continue their valuable work.

Further information on CRY can be found here (https://www.c-r-y.org.uk/)

Congratulations Lucie!

24th January, 2023 – UCL-Wellington Clinical Fellowships Open to Cardiology & Neurology Applicants

The 2023 Wellington Clinical Fellowship scheme is now open for applications. In this new round, applications are sought from clinical trainees in both Cardiology and Neurology.

UCL and the Wellington Hospital (HCA Healthcare UK) are partners in a long-standing programme in which Fellows study for a PhD in the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science while working at the UK’s largest private hospital providing specialist complex care.

Fellow are employed by the Wellington Hospital where they will undertake a 1:6 on call,  with the rest of their time dedicated to their research at the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute at UCL. The Wellington Hospital covers (i) annual salary, (ii) PhD fees (part time), in addition to (iii) offering £10K max consumable costs p.a.  For this current round we are recruiting for one Cardiology Trainee (an exclusively cardiovascular PhD) and one Neurology Trainee (focussed on neuroprotection following ischaemic stroke).

We welcome all applicants who are medically qualified, GMC registered and have MRCP. The scheme is open only to UK/EEA nationals due to funding restrictions.

To apply, please visit the HCA website here.

Closes: 28th February 2023

6th December 2022 – Remarkable Feedback from Recent Horizon GP Meeting

The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute Horizon GP’s conference was held on 9th November at the Royal College of Physicians in London, UK. This one-day medical education meeting brings together a notable faculty of diabetes experts who present and discuss new horizons in diabetes management in primary care to an audience of General Practitioners.

This more recent meeting saw a return to an entirely face-to-face format, a welcome change after the many virtual meetings over the last couple of years. The Royal College of Physicians welcomed over 100 primary care delegates from across the UK to listen to a variety of presentations detailing the latest in diabetes care and research. Always an engaging and interactive meeting, the feedback received from the attendees proved just how important such gatherings are for medical education.

Of note from the post-meeting survey there was an 87% response of which:

  • 99% of respondents say the event was useful for their professional activity
  • 99% of respondents say their overall impression of the programme was good or excellent
  • 100% of respondents say the presented information was well balanced and consistently supported by a valid scientific evidence base
  • 100% of respondents say there was adequate time available for discussions, questions & answers and learner engagement
  • 100% of respondents would be interested in attending in the future
  • 100% of respondents would recommend this meeting to colleagues

With such positive feedback, the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute hopes to continue with this education programme and looks forward to new and exciting meetings in 2023.

1st December 2022 – Another Successful SpR Case Study MDT Grand Rounds Meeting

The final SpR Case Study MDT Grand Rounds Meeting was held on Friday, 25th November at The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute. Building on an educational programme the HCI initiated a few years ago, these meetings target SpR’s in the fields of Cardiovascular, Renal, and Endocrine medicine, also now extending this to include SpR’s in Primary Care & secondary care.

With this new format, SpR’s were encouraged to submit case studies which they felt were interesting, challenging, and relevant to the 3 specialties which were then be assessed by a joint panel of Consultants and SpR’s who selected those for presentation at the meeting. The goal was to stimulate discussion and problem-solving within multi-disciplinary working.

In this final meeting of 2023, we also included Senior Consultants who presented a case report which they used to query the SpR audience for treatment direction. This approach resulted in active and engaging discussions between all, Senior and Junior Specialists, and demonstrated the benefit of MDT learning across these disciplines.

The HCI will begin working on new meetings for 2023, details to follow soon.

30th November 2022 – RIC in Covid-19 Trial Outcomes Paper Published

We are pleased to announce a further publication, specific to COVID-19 research led by the team at the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, has now been published. Entitled “Effect of Remote Ischaemic Conditioning on the Inflammatory Cytokine Cascade of COVID‑19 (RIC in COVID‑19): a Randomized Controlled Trial” follows on from our study announcement paper (J Cardiovasc Drugs & Therapy 2021) and now details the outcomes of trial. The paper has been published in the recent issue of the journal Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy (published online 29th Nov 2022) and can be read here.

In recent years, The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute (HCI) has been active in investigating the role of the inflammatory system as a cause of significant injury during acute myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke. Importantly our research into methods of alleviating this inflammatory response are similar to events that we saw in the early stages of the COVID-19 disease, i.e. the cellular mechanisms are similar to those seen in patients with sepsis. The phenomenon known as “Remote Ischemic Conditioning” (RIC), which is a simple non-invasive procedure, has been shown to prevent cellular injury following sepsis in preclinical studies. Therefore, based on the evidence from studies investigating sepsis, it was hypothesised that the same benefit may be seen in patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

In April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute initiated a novel trial to investigate the potential for RIC to reduce the severity of anti-inflammatory cytokines which are responsible the so-called cytokine “storm” that occurs in COVID-19 patients. Approved as part of the fast-track review scheme provided through UCLH and the National Research Ethics Boards to expedite important COVID-19 research, the study included UCLH, The Royal Free Hospital (London) and The Lister Hospital (Stevenage). The aim of the study was ultimately to halt, or at least attenuate, the disease process before patients enter the intensive care units when the situation changes dramatically and may be too late.

In further development of the trial, the HCI forged strong collaborations with two leading teams in South Africa and Brazil to investigate in parallel the use of RIC in COVID-19 patients in their populations. The global pandemic presented unique opportunities to collaborate internationally and widen the scope of the research to develop new methods to reduce the heightened inflammatory response essential to halting progression of COVID-19 in patients and reducing the severity of damage.

In the paper, the authors discuss the complex outcomes of the multi-country trial. Due to the rapidly evolving pandemic, quickly changing clinical environment, and patient presentations, the trial results were challenging to draw a clear conclusion from. Study parameters naturally varied from the first to the last recruited patient (total of 80 were recruited). Furthermore due to the evolving nature of the pandemic, dexamethasone for example became standard of care midway through the trail for patients in some countries but not others. Therefore, without being able to standardise all parameters, it was difficult to draw a clear conclusion from the cytokine results observed. While in this instance, RIC was not found to provide a significant reduction in inflammatory cytokines in patients with COVID-19, it did highlight potential for further investigation into this area with a larger patient cohort and standardised conditions.

The HCI would like to thank all of the teams across the UK, Brazil and South Africa who contributed to this research during such challenging circumstances and of course to the -patients who took part. Finally we are also indebted to the Thompson Family Trust and the Hatter Foundation for their support of this study.