The Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) is the research-dedicated limb of the National University Heart Centre Singapore (NUHCS). NUHCS was conceived in 2007 and has the tripartite mission to undertake research, provide excellent clinical service and to teach. Since late 2009 CVRI has evolved from an aspirational concept to a formidable and expanding infrastructure (engaging over 100 basic scientists, clinician-scientists and support staff) with a growing capacity to pursue a primary mission; the conduct of translational research in Heart Failure. CVRI aims to generate new knowledge elucidating the underpinning molecular and pathophysiological derangements leading to and perpetuating heart failure with the aim of developing new diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic tools for the prevention and amelioration of a condition which currently has a five year survival of only 50% and which will afflict one person in five now in middle age.
Efforts in Biomarker discovery and validation extend from novel peptide markers to circulating microRNA profiles and circulating cellular microparticle–associated markers. Professors Richards, De Kleijn and Foo and Drs Mark Chan and Chester Drum lead work in this domain. Research into the epigenetic aspects of heart failure may clarify the events leading to progressive heart failure and offer therapeutic opportunities. Roger Foo leads our work in this arena and links closely with the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS). Immune system participation; specifically the role of innate immune system in the response to cardiac injury is a focus for Professor De Kleijn. Dr Chan researches platelet related markers (platelet function and platelet derived microRNAs) in high risk coronary cohorts. Dr Drum is focused upon novel detection systems for point of care tests and novel drug delivery systems.
Both Professors Foo and De Kleijn conduct work in small (rodent) and large (pig) models of heart failure and CVRI has access to excellent animal surgery and imaging facilities. Professor Richards researches informative peptide markers and seeks biomarker applications in circulating microRNA profiles. CVRI laboratory facilities accommodate the needs of molecular biology, biomarker discovery and immunoassay development and validation and our Principal Investigators are supported by a growing complement of research assistants and post-doctoral staff members.
CVRI provides a close link between clinic and bench with coordination of nation-wide multi-centre cohort studies in heart failure and high–risk pre-heart failure states (severe myocardial infarction and severe heart valve disease) and therapeutic trials in heart failure. These clinical research efforts are conducted through a well-developed national network with collaborating PIs in each of Singapore’s major public hospitals and project leadership provided from NUHCS –based Cardiologists Assoc Professor Carolyn Lam, Dr Mark Chan, Dr Ronald Lee and Associate Professor Ling Lieng Hsi who have international standing in the respective fields of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, thrombosis and intervention in coronary disease, intra-coronary imaging and the role of sleep disturbance in heart disease and assessment and management of valvular heart disease. Invaluable support to clinical research initiatives is provided by a complement of a further ~ 12 specialists in interventional cardiology, heart failure and cardiac electrophysiology.
Active collaborations in both basic and clinical research extend beyond Singapore throughout South East and greater Asia with further work conducted in partnership with workers in Australasia and the United States. Over the coming decade CVRI will expand to a critical mass of up to 20 PIs with complementary expertise and aspirations to propel NUHCS into international prominence through pursuit of a comprehensive programme of translational research in heart failure.
Funding for CVRI includes initial underpinning from start-up funding from the National University of Singapore with further support gained through successful applications for contestable funds, from excellent links with Singapore’s multi-facetted ASTar Institutes and through strategic partnerships with industry.
Professor A. Mark Richards
Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI), NUHS