Researchers drive global call to action to tackle world’s leading cause of death

A team of researchers from the Kolling Institute, The University of Sydney, Monash University and La Trobe University have led a global call to action to accelerate new approaches for cardiovascular disease (CVD) drug solutions.

CVD is the leading cause of death globally. Since the start of the pandemic approximately 18 million people have died of CVD, with the majority from low- and middle-income countries.

The epidemic of CVD is a global phenomenon, however equitable access to effective therapies continues to be an international challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated what can be achieved when the world is faced with an acute health problem in urgent need of solutions. In the special feature article, co-published in leading journals European Heart Journal and Circulation, the authors argue that we must approach the fight against CVD, the world’s greatest killer, with the same level of gumption.

Kolling Institute researcher Professor Gemma Figtree, Professor Rebecca Ritchie from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and La Trobe University's Professor Grant Drummond who leads the La Trobe Centre for Cardiovascular Biology and Disease Research, have led the call to action through their shared affiliation with the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA) - Australia’s peak leadership body for the advancement of heart, stroke and vascular disease research.

The University of Sydney’s Professor Figtree, who is also President of the ACvA, said: “As we continue to wrestle with the immense challenge of implementing equitable access to established evidence-based treatments for CVD, substantial gaps remain - particularly in low- and middle-income countries.”

“Much like we’ve seen with COVID-19, we’re calling for the global mobilisation of researchers, clinicians, industry leaders and policy makers to accelerate discovery, translation and impact in CVD medicine.”

Professor Rebecca Ritchie, Drug Discovery Biology Theme Leader at MIPS said: “Developing a global approach to transform drug discovery for cardiovascular disease, whilst maintaining efforts towards equitable access to established effective treatments, is an imperative not an option.”

“Since the start of the pandemic, the extent of collaboration between researchers, industry, government and the community has been unprecedented - let’s continue the momentum applied to address COVID-19 and commit to taking similar steps in the fight against CVD, the world’s biggest killer.”

The authors have outlined the most urgent challenges and potential solutions for accelerating drug discovery and translation in the cardiovascular space, along with the next steps required to drive global collaboration to tackle CVD drug solutions.

The international roundtable identified a number of priority areas across how patients are classified beyond the traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity and comorbidities such as diabetes, for cardiovascular disease. Using this as a platform to discover new biological mechanisms that cause diseases such as heart attack and heart failure and hinder recovery and quality of life, the authors recommend then targeting these mechanisms to develop precision (personalised) medicine for affected patients.

“The plan is to establish collaborative preclinical and clinical trial networks to enable faster development of new treatments for cardiovascular disease. Together, the international team is now working on progressing these priority areas, engaging with industry, regulatory bodies, governments and the community on a global scale,” said Professor Ritchie.