University of Toronto receives a $30 million commitment from Heart and Stroke Foundation

he Heart and Stroke Foundation has announced a $300 million initiative to support cutting-edge heart and stroke research at leading health institutions across the country.

The funding initiative is the largest research commitment in the organization’s 60-year history. It will accelerate the progress of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s goal of reducing Canadians’ rate of death from heart disease and stroke by 25 per cent by 2020.

The University of Toronto, as a member of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Leadership Circle, will receive a landmark $30 million in research funding over the next 10 years. The commitment will strengthen the extraordinary network of U of T faculty who are already pursuing breakthroughs in cardiovascular research, teaching and clinical innovation.

The University’s Heart & Stroke Richard Lewar Centre of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research, for example, has among its members more than 90 faculty researchers who are making vital contributions to cardiovascular science and clinical care, such as solving genetic mysteries in heart development, developing new diagnostic tests for heart failure, engineering replacement parts for damaged hearts and creating new life saving treatments.

The University of Toronto is also home to world-class strengths in the rapidly evolving field of transplant research, where advances in stem cell biology, cloning, gene therapy and tissue engineering are creating unique opportunities to treat and regenerate damaged organs, including the heart.

“The new commitment from the Heart and Stroke Foundation will provide U of T with a stable source of funding for cardiovascular research,” says Dr. Michael Farkouh, Director of the Heart & Stroke Richard Lewar Centre of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research, and cardiologist at University Health Network’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. “This will allow us to build on our discoveries and ensure our research is translated into better health care outcomes for Canadians who are confronting the threat of heart disease and stroke.”

The Foundation Research Leadership Circle also includes U of T-affiliated hospitals including the Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Michael’s, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University Health Network. These institutions, together with U of T, form the largest cardiovascular research network in the country.

“Simply put, there’s an urgent need to save more lives faster and that’s why the Foundation has brought together the Research Leadership Circle,” says David Sculthorpe, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. “This $300 million commitment will allow our partners an unprecedented ability to plan major research projects, foster greater collaboration and attract even more of the world’s best researchers within and outside of Canada to fight these insidious diseases.”

Heart disease and stroke account for almost 30 per cent of annual deaths in Canada. A Canadian dies from the diseases every seven minutes. They are also a major drain on the economy, resulting in more than $20.9 billion spent annually in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity.

Since 1952, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has provided more than $1.35 billion to heart and stroke research — second only to the federal government. However, this is the first time the Foundation has made an up-front commitment to support long-term research planning. The Foundation’s traditional merit-based peer-reviewed granting process will continue in tandem with the new funding initiative.

“The University of Toronto is thrilled to be part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Leadership Circle,” says Dr. Farkouh. “Working with our institutional partners, we look forward to meeting the Foundation’s goal of significantly reducing the impact of heart disease and stroke in Canada.”