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Christchurch Cardiac Research Group Wins University’s Premier Award

A Christchurch research group whose work has changed the way clinicians around the globe diagnose and treat heart conditions has won the University of Otago 2020 Research Group Award.

The Christchurch Heart Institute (CHI) is a group of biomedical scientists and clinicians who have been finding ways to improve outcomes for cardiac patients for more than 25 years. They are based at the University of Otago, Christchurch.

In the 1990s the group was the first to discover that certain hormones circulating in the blood could be used to diagnose heart failure. One of the blood tests developed as a result of the group’s discovery is now the single most widely-used blood test worldwide to diagnose heart failure. Since that first breakthrough the team have become world-leaders in the discovery and development of hormone-based tests for diagnosing and treating a range of heart conditions. The tests allow clinicians in emergency departments and other hospitals settings to quickly determine the cause of patient’s chest pain and fast-track them to the most appropriate clinic or treatment plan.

University of Otago deputy vice-chancellor, research and enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie says the award demonstrates the enduring quality of the university’s research effort in Ōtautahi.

“The CHI has been at the peak of discovery research and translation of research into real benefits for people and communities for several decades. The results of their work are used daily in emergency departments and hospital wards around the world for diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases, saving millions of lives annually,’’ he says.

“What perhaps sets CHI apart from the other excellent research groups nominated for this year’s award is its exemplary culture of collaboration, both externally and internally. Externally, CHI collaborates with other research teams at the highest level – both nationally and internationally – to maximise the impact of its research. It also makes a huge commitment to public engagement, having given more than 80 public talks and 23 media engagements in the past five years. They demonstrate the commitment to not only doing great work but also to sharing the learnings from their work.”

Professor Mark Richards is a cardiologist and Christchurch Heart Institute leader. He says winning the University of Otago Research Group Award is welcome recognition of the groups’ ongoing original contributions to the detection, understanding and treatment of heart disease.

“Our well-integrated, multi-disciplinary group has contributed to advances in diagnosis and care of heart failure that have improved the outlook for this condition for patients world-wide. After more than 25 years the Christchurch Heart Institute continues to move from strength to strength with development of younger researchers and adoption of cutting-edge methods promising to keep the institute amongst the leading groups in the field going forward."

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