TU/e shortlisted for €35 million award for research on cardiovascular diseases

TU/e professors Carlijn Bouten and Frans van de Vosse are shortlisted to receive €35 million award for two research projects on cardiovascular diseases. The award is the end-result of the Big Beat Challenge, a global competition from the British Heart Foundation. Together with researchers from other universities, Bouten and Van de Vosse will work on the development of a soft robotic heart and a wearable technology to monitor heart function, respectively.

photo British Heart Foundation

The World Health Organization is forecasting an increase in cardiovascular deaths worldwide. With the Big Beat Challenge, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) wants to address the frightening mismatch in research funding compared with the burden of heart and circulatory diseases. 

Prof. Carlijn Bouten, together with an international team of researchers, plans to create a solution for heart failure by developing a soft robotic heart. The team will design, build, test and implant a hybrid heart that consists of a soft robotic shell that forms the soft artificial muscles and sensors, and a lining made of human tissue recreated in the lab. The hybrid heart will be powered wirelessly through the skin. 


For Bouten, the hybrid heart is “pushing the frontiers of medical technology and has the potential to revolutionise healthcare", as it could replace the need for human heart transplantation and give hope to those around the world who are desperately waiting for a donated organ. Its developers plan to test a prototype in goats within three years and are hopeful it will become a commonplace replacement for heart transplants by 2040. The HYBRID HEART project is led by Professor Jolanda Kluin from the University of Amsterdam.


Innovative ‘wearables’

Prof. Frans van de Vosse is involved in the ECHOES project, which aims to develop a wearable technology that can be used in daily life to capture more data than ever before. From symptoms and physical activity to heart function and air quality, this information could be used alongside genetic and healthcare data to transform diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of heart and circulatory diseases. The team is led by Professor Frank Rademakers, Chief Medical Technology Officer at University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium.

The BHF received 75 applications from 40 countries. Proposals have been rigorously reviewed to get down to the four most compelling ideas. Four international teams have been invited to submit full applications with the hope of winning the €35 million funding award. The shortlisted teams have been given a small amount of funding and will spend the next six months putting together their full applications. These will be reviewed by panels of independent experts on the subjects, with a winner expected to be announced at the end of 2020.

The Big Beat Challenge

The Big Beat Challenge brings together world-leading researchers and innovators to look beyond incremental gains and accelerate breakthroughs in heart and circulatory disease that could transform lives across the globe. The shortlisted teams are international and multidisciplinary, with experts from countries across the world spanning the domains of academia, industry and technology. 

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