Brigham and Women’s Doctor to Lead $75 Million Research Project

One Brave Idea is devoted to making breakthroughs against coronary heart disease.


Photo by Dana Guth

A Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) doctor will lead a $75 million research effort dedicated to fighting coronary heart disease (CHD).

Calum MacRae, chief of cardiovascular medicine at BWH, and his team are the recipients of the One Brave Idea research grant, an award given by the American Heart Association and Verily, with support from AstraZeneca. In addition to $75 million in funding, the donors will provide resources and mentorship over the course of the five-year project.

MacRae and his team will study genetic, cellular, and molecular markers of CHD, in the hopes of identifying, at a young age, those who are at risk of the disease. MacRae and his team were selected from hundreds of applicants around the world, all of whom are trying to better understand and treat cardiovascular diseases, which are the number one cause of death globally. Coronary heart disease alone is responsible for more than 7 million deaths annually.

“I’m grateful to the American Heart Association, Verily, and AstraZeneca for believing in my research vision and showing their support by selecting our remarkable team as the recipients of the One Brave Idea award,” MacRae said in a statement.

At a press conference Wednesday, MacRae said his approach will use as many tools as possible to create a comprehensive picture of CHD in its earliest stages.

“Our goal is to leverage all the tools of modern technology, build on existing biological and biomedical science, [and] engage patients and their families in much more holistic ways,” he said.

MacRae and the team aim to find markers of early-stage CHD by looking at places other than the heart. “We want to look where people haven’t looked before, ” MacRae said.

For example, instead of looking at the heart, MacRae and his team could study cholesterol under the skin when someone is five or six years old, in an attempt to pinpoint when a child comes into contact with a trigger of CHD. The team will also use social media to monitor diet and geolocation.

Researchers from MIT, Northeastern University, the Boston University School of Medicine, and other institutions are also involved in the research. More information about the approach can be found here.