Pilot projectsThe BHF Centre periodically offers funding for pump-priming pilot projects, with the objectives of promoting nascent collaboration and supporting the research leaders of the future. A maximum of £50,000 is offered, over a period of up to two years, with the aim of promoting investigators’ capabilities and competitiveness for external peer-reviewed funding by facilitating exploratory research, hypothesis-generating studies, proof-of-concept demonstrations and the establishment of novel tools or methods. Applicants for these awards must be named members of the BHF Centre, and all proposals are expected to fall under the scope of the BHF Centre’s mission of imaginative cardiovascular research. (Image credit - Dr Declan O'Regan)

COVID-19 projects supported

Collaborative research on cardiovascular medicine and COVID-19 using high-resolution clinical data
Investigator: Jamil Mayet

The NHS routinely collects billions of data items from patients annually but using these in health research is challenging, with substantial variability in data capture and quality between NHS Trusts. The NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative (HIC), a collaboration between 12 Biomedical Research Centres and their partner Trusts, overcomes these issues by creating data warehouses at each site that transform raw electronic data to standardised structures and formats, with established validation and cataloguing processes. We will provide common infrastructure, standards and services to develop a national resource of granular COVID-19 data for research and facilitate long-term high-quality translational research during and beyond the pandemic. 

COVID-19 Human Population SusceptibiliTY COHORT Network (COVIDITY-COHORT)
Investigators: Ioanna Tsoulaki and Paul Elliott

PHOSP-COVID - Post-Covid-19 follow up cohort
Investigators: Edwin Chilvers and Luke Howard

Developing a screen to inhibit endothelial pro-thrombotic switch during severe COVID19 infection
Investigator: Anna Randi

Studies of Ang(1-7) and analogues to reduce the vascular complications of COVID-19
Investigators: David Owen, Katerina Pollock and Joseph Boyle

Imaging ACE2 dimerization – target for Sars-Cov2
Investigator: Paul French


Detecting and monitoring heart failure with handheld ultrasound
Investigator: Peter Weinberg

The project concerns the development of new methods for diagnosing and monitoring heart failure based on ultrasound monitoring of pulse waves in arteries. At present, definitive diagnosis requires an echocardiogram and takes place in a specialist centre. Echocardiograms are difficult to interpret; prolonged training is required and even then there is subjectivity about the results. The methods we are developing could be used by non-specialists, and in the community as well as in the clinic. They return absolute quantitative results and do not require interpretation of images.

Development of the Imperial Implantable Electro-Mechanical Coupling Loop Recorder
Investigators: Daniel Keene and Zac Whinnett

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) save lives. Unfortunately though, ~40% of the shocks they deliver are unnecessary. This is because ICD decision-making algorithms are limited, relying solely upon detected electrogram signals to diagnose potential ventricular arrhythmias.
These shocks are distressing, increase mortality, and may limit more systematic device utilisation. We have developed and patented a novel ICD decision-making algorithm, which for the first time combines synchronised electrogram with perfusion signals to create a personalised and reliable indicator of whether a shock is truly required or not. This project will build and test a proof-of-concept device which can implement our new method.

Finite element analysis of enlarged thoracic aortas: using aortic wall strain to predict aortic growth and failure with a machine learning approach
Investigator: Thanos Athanasiou

This project focuses on thoracic aortic aneurysms, which silently afflict patients who have a risk of sudden death from type A aortic dissection. In a previous project, we conducted comprehensive computational fluid dynamic (CFD) assessment of TAA (using data from 4D flow MRI), allowing us to generate detailed wall shear stress (WSS) assessment. In the current project, we are matching 4D flow MRI data and material properties from explanted aneurysm tissue to build a finite element model to map out aortic wall stress. This will be incorporated into a machine learning algorithm to a) rapidly predict TAA wall stress from routine imaging and b) predict aneurysm expansion and prognosis from serial imaging. This will provide a more accurate prediction of TAA expansion and rupture/dissection compared to current standards.


Bioinformatic profiling of transcriptomic changes associated with specific conditional knockout of COX-2 in vessels versus the kidney
Investigators: Jane Mitchell, Sarah Butcher, Nicholas Kirkby

Unravelling the importance of mitochondrial DNA content and mutational load in stem cell fate
Investigators: Tristan Rodriguez, Nick Jones. Jorge Ferrer

Designing pulmonary artery-on-a-chip for studies on pulmonary hypertension
Investigators: Beata Wojciak-Stothard, Joshua Edel


Engineering microvascular networks for regenerative medicine using human induced pluripotent stem cells and 3D printing
Investigators: Anna Randi, Peter Weinberg, Gabor Foldes, Sian Harding, Koralia Paschalaki

Training strategies for the development and maintenance of mature structural and electromechanical properties of cardiac muscle patches in vitro
Investigators: Cesare Terracciano, Molly Stevens


Investigators: Ralph Knoell, Darryl Overby, Julia Gorelik

Real-time in vivo optical structural and metabolic characterization of cardiac tissue
Investigators: Alex Lyon, Chris Dunsby, Nick Peters, Paul French

Whole-genome and whole-heart strategies for discovery of quantitative trait loci in adult cardiomyopathies
Investigators: Declan O’Regan, Stuart Cook, Daniel Rueckert

Can sulforaphane pre-treatment reduce systemic inflammatory responses in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery?
Investigators: Paul Evans, Ed Tate, Hazel Jones, Dorian Haskard, Gianni Angelini, Thanos Athanasiou


Development of a modular high-throughput loss-of-function platform for cardiovascular applications
Investigators: Rob Krams, Paul Evans, Tony Cass


Biomarkers for COX-2 expression in vivo: identification of an assay to predict patients at risk of cardiovascular events on NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors.
Investigators: Jane Mitchell, Jeremy Nicholson

Correlation of mouse aortic arch hemodynamics with endothelial transcription factor expression and activity
Investigators: Ross Ethier, Justin Mason, Peter Weinberg, Willy Gsell

High-throughput screens: quantitative automated analysis and data interrogation
Investigators: Vania Braga, Alessandra Russo, Daniel Rueckert