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University of Leicester Lands $11M for Biomarker Lab, Heart Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK's University of Leicester has received a £7 million ($10.9 million) grant from the John and Lucille van Geest Foundation that it will use to build a new biomarker lab and to fund an array of cardiovascular research projects, the university said today.

The university said that £2.5 million of the grant will support an analytical biomarker facility, located near a Cardiovascular Research Centre that is being built at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, and the remaining £4.5 million will be used to launch the van Geest Foundation Heart and Cardiovascular Diseases Research Fund at the university. The school also plans to use some of the funding to buy three mass spectrometers and computing technologies for handling and analyzing a range of data types at the biomarker lab.

The money will support the hiring of new staff to conduct cardiovascular disease research using a range of 'omics and other approaches, including studies of genes, proteins, lipids, and clinical data, among others.

"We will concentrate initially on research into heart failure and on coronary artery disease," Don Jones, a University of Leicester lecturer in biomarkers and mass spectrometry, said in a statement. "A particular form of heart failure where muscle contraction is preserved and yet patients are very symptomatic will be investigated, since there are not many treatments available for this even though it can account for half of the cases of heart failure.

"Using the mass spectrometers, we hope to develop novel ways to diagnose and predict outcomes in these patients, and in so doing, may discover new pathways that may suggest new treatments for further development," Jones said. "In patients with arterial disease, we hope to be able to detect patients who have unstable lipid deposits in their arteries and develop non-invasive ways of diagnosing these deposits, thereby detecting patients who may benefit earlier from available treatments."

Nilesh Samani, head of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester, added, "This gift will enable us to understand what happens beyond the genome and hopefully combine these technologies to yield novel tools for clinical use which ultimately benefits patients."