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Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Studies Chair

Heart Foundation Chair Of Cardiovascular Studies Reconfirmed

One of New Zealand’s leading cardiovascular researchers has been reconfirmed to a professorial research chair for a further five years, thanks to funding from the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand.

Professor Mark Richards, from the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University has been reappointed to the National Heart Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Studies.

Professor Richards is the Director of the Christchurch Cardioendocrine Research Group (CCERG) which has an international reputation in leading-edge research into blood pressure and heart failure.

He heads a 35 member team of clinicians, scientists, nursing and technical staff who have focussed on a range of original studies in the field of hormones, high blood pressure and heart failure. Study results are already being used to improve cardiovascular care in New Zealand and overseas.

Professor Richards is pleased that the innovative research of the CCERG has again been recognised by the Heart Foundation. “The funds provided through the National Heart Foundation Chair provide crucial flexibility to the research group allowing rapid initiation of new directions and filing funding gaps which would otherwise reduce our international competitiveness.”

Some of the key aspects of the Group’s research have revolved around the use of hormones (N-BNP) secreted by the heart, as markers or indicators, for more accurate medication in patients with heart failure or heart disease. Testing of hormone levels in the blood has enabled better treatment of some of the 12,000 patients who are admitted to hospital every year with suspected heart failure.

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These tests, developed at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences are now being moved into the community at the primary care level, and are likely to be adopted world-wide following larger clinical studies. Early indications are that using N-BNP as a marker improves the accuracy of diagnosis in the community and improves clinical outcomes.

Other research by Prof. Richards and the CCERG has been used by the pharmaceutical industry to improve commonly used cardiac drugs such as beta blockers. The group is still continuing its investigations in this area. Other members of the CCERG have been working on identifying gene variants and links to the risk of dying after a heart attack.

Heart Foundation Medical Director, Dr Diana North says: “We’re thrilled to be able to extend our support to someone of Professor Richards’ calibre. He and the team at CCERG are one of the leading cardiovascular research groups in the country. Their research is acknowledged on a word-wide basis as ‘ground breaking’ in the treatment of heart failure. He is most deserving of this extension to the Chair.”

Dean of the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences Professor Ian Town says he is delighted that the Chair has been extended as the Group has been outstandingly productive and is making a real contribution to the management of heart disease in New Zealand.

Eighteen months ago the entire Cardioendocrine Research Group was approached by the prestigious Baker Research Institute in Melbourne to move overseas. It was thanks to a concerted effort by the Heart Foundation, Canterbury District Health Board and the University of Otago to improve funding and infrastructural support for the Group that they were able to remain in Christchurch.

Heart and blood vessel disease is the leading cause of death in New Zealand, responsible for 40 per cent of lives lost annually, or 10,500 deaths per year. The Heart Foundation is a non-profit, non-government organisation committed to reducing suffering and early loss of life from heart and blood vessel disease for all New Zealanders.

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