Professor Jamie Vandenberg working in the Institute's Innovation Centre

NHMRC Funding

NHMRC funding to develop new treatments for cardiac arrhythmias and cardiomyopathies

15 December 2023

The Institute’s scientists have been successful in the latest round of NHMRC Ideas Grant funding.

Professor Jamie Vandenberg will lead a team to develop more effective drugs to target cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation – which will affect one in three Australians during their lifetime.

Professor Jamie Vandenberg writing on a whiteboard

Despite, being a major cause of morbidity and mortality, current drugs to treat arrythmias are plagued by safety concerns and lack of long-term effectiveness. They work by crudely targeting ion channels to reduce cardiac excitability.

Professor Vandenberg’s team will explore a way to alter the ion channels rather than completely stopping them and will focus on allosteric modulators. The prime ion channel candidate for developing allosteric modulators as anti-arrhythmic drugs is the HERG potassium channel. Professor Vandenberg says:

“We hope our studies will form strong foundations for the development of a new class of anti-arrhythmic drugs with the potential to impact one of the most urgent unmet medical needs in cardiology.”

Dr Siiri lismaa, alongside Professor Bob Graham and Professor Sally Dunwoodie, are part of a team led by the Centenary Institute’s Dr Daniel Hesselson, which has been awarded funding to deliver new treatments to help people living with cardiomyopathies.

Cardiomyopathies, which are caused by an insufficiency of functional heart muscle cells or cardiomyocytes, lead to heart failure and have a five-year survival rate of around just 50 per cent. Dr lismaa says:

“Cardiomyopathies represent an urgent unmet clinical need for innovative treatments to directly address the underlying pathophysiology by regenerating cardiomyocytes and, thereby, to improve outcomes, wellbeing and survival.”

This research will enhance the potency of a promising therapeutic that has recently been shown to stimulate the regrowth of heart muscle.

The project has the potential to lead to simple, implementable therapies for treating cardiomyopathies.

The overall funding rate for 2023 Ideas Grants applications was just 11.06%.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

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