A cardiology consultant from Leicester has been awarded a prestigious research professorship from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Professor Gerry McCann, cardiology consultant at Leicester’s Hospitals and professor of cardiac imaging at the University of Leicester, is just one of five eminent medical researchers in the country to have received the award in this round in a highly competitive process. It is the first time anyone in Leicester has been accepted on the programme.
The aim of the NIHR Research Professorships programme is to “fund future research leaders to promote the effective translation of research from bench to bedside”. This means taking what is learnt in laboratories to improve patient care as quickly as possible.
The post lasts for five years and is supported by £1.95 million to increase the capacity of Professor McCann and his team to conduct more research in his area of expertise – using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the early signs of heart failure in patients with type 2 diabetes in order to improve diagnosis and management of the condition.
Professor McCann said: “I am grateful to the NIHR for accepting my application onto the Research Professorships programme, and for the opportunities it creates to further develop the heart imaging research team in Leicester.”
On his research aims, Professor McCann said: “We know that heart failure is the most common and deadliest cardiovascular complication of diabetes. With the support of the NIHR, our research will aim to identify which characteristics of patients with type 2 diabetes are most likely to be associated with early heart failure, as detected on a MRI scan. We will also explore whether early heart failure can be reliably diagnosed by a blood test using a combination of proteins.”
The aim will be to check the findings using health data from large samples of the population held by organisations such as UK Biobank. Additional funding will be sought to undertake clinical trials to find the best ways to treat early and established heart failure in patients with type 2 diabetes.
McCann and his team eventually hope to develop a clinical risk score and diagnostic blood test that may be used to screen people with type 2 diabetes so that treatments to reduce the risk of heart failure can be initiated. This would improve patients’ health and prevent further illness. It could also save the NHS money by reducing hospital admissions for heart failure and other complications by targeting patients most at risk and empowering them to manage their conditions appropriately.
Professor McCann’s team is based in the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). Director of the BRC, Professor Melanie Davies CBE, said: “We are delighted that Gerry has been recognised as an outstanding academic through his NIHR Research Professorship. The purpose of the BRC is to speed up the process of taking research findings and using them to improve patient care and Gerry provides exemplary leadership in this approach.”
Professor Nigel Brunskill, Director of Research and Innovation at Leicester’s Hospitals and Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Leicester’s College of Life Sciences, said: “It is a great honour for Leicester to receive its first NIHR Research Professorship. Gerry should be proud of his achievement. It is important for the research to take place here in Leicester because we have a multi-ethnic population that can have different risk factors for acquiring both heart failure and type 2 diabetes. Research needs to be inclusive of different ethnic groups to ensure that we understand how these illnesses might progress differently according to ethnicity.”
Professor McCann has developed an international reputation for his work on using cardiac imaging to better understand heart disease, including research that changed the guidelines on how MRI scans could be used for patients with coronary heart disease, preventing unnecessary angiographies (a process that requires a catheter to be inserted through the groin area).
You can hear Professor McCann speak at this year’s Frank May Prize Lecture at the University of Leicester, titled ‘Using MRI to better understand and manage heart disease’. The event, which is on 29 October, begins at 5:30PM and is free and open to the public.
The Frank May Prize Lecture was established in 1991, endowed by the generosity of Dr Frank May and is delivered annually by a member of the University’s College of Life Sciences. The annual Prize Lecture can be delivered by clinical or non-clinical members of the College but the area of research must be medically related.