Mental health, pregnancy, and diabetes amongst projects awarded COVID-19 funding boost

29 Sep 2023

Research teams from across the UK have been awarded funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Data Science Centre to support data science research and speed up the understanding of COVID-19 effects on health.  

The funding boost will support a total of 13 projects focused on COVID-19 and its links to cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Funded projects include a study tackling regional health inequalities in heart disease, and the an England-wide look at COVID-19 infection and vaccination in pregnant women with heart disease.

The award announcement follows a competitive call for funding announcement in collaboration with Diabetes UK. A total fund pot of £500,000 was available to support research as part of the BHF Data Science Centre’s CVD-COVID-UK/COVID-IMPACT Consortium, with £150,000 ring-fenced for diabetes research.

Diabetes studies that have been awarded funding include an ambitious data science project investigating the impact of COVID-19 infection on Type 2 diabetes and population rates of cardiovascular diseases.

“Diabetes and heart disease share common risk factors, but much remains unknown about the effects of the pandemic on patients living with these conditions. Research supported by this funding will inform policy, and ultimately, benefit patients and future patients.” 

BHF Data Science Centre Associate Director and Diabetes Data Science Catalyst lead, Professor Ewan Pearson

The BHF Data Science Centre was set up in early 2020 to enable data-led research to improve heart and circulatory health. During the pandemic, much of the Centre’s work switched to focus on COVID-19, leading to the creation of the CVD-COVID-UK Consortium, which brings together researchers across the UK to study links between cardiovascular health and coronavirus.

Diabetes Data Science Catalyst 

In 2022 the Centre launched the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst with HDR UK, Diabetes UK and the BHF, to advance data research into heart disease and diabetes, two of the world’s most pressing health concerns.  

The newly funded projects will enhance work in both these key areas and enable researchers to make impactful, health-relevant findings at speed. 

“We are delighted to be co-funding the first data science exemplar projects in partnership with the BHF Data Science Centre. Cardiovascular disease is among the leading causes of death in people with diabetes and is strongly associated with health inequalities.

“These new, cutting-edge projects funded by the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst initiative will further our understanding of the impact of the pandemic, providing vital information about ways to improve health outcomes for people with diabetes and tackle inequalities that persist in diabetes care.”

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK

All studies funded in this latest call will be assessed by the Centre’s Approvals and Oversights board, which includes members of our public advisory group to ensure that research meet people’s needs and have patient voices embedded throughout. Patient and public contributors were included in the review and selection of projects to be funded.

Dr Caroline Jackson from the University of Edinburgh was awarded funding to study pandemic-effects on the rates of cardiovascular conditions in people with mental illness.

“We know that mental illness puts people at higher risk of serious heart issues. Data science will help us to understand how the pandemic has affected health services in this area, which is key to understanding how best to support patient and improve care.” 

Dr Caroline Jackson, University of Edinburgh

List of funded projects

  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on outcomes of children with congenital heart disease who require cardiac interventions. Professor Kate Brown, University College London
  • RARE-CVD-COVID: To understand COVID-19 impact on intersectional disparity in rare v common cardiometabolic diseases: cardiovascular diseases and metabolic diseases (MBD) including diabetes.           Associate Professor Sara Khalid, University of Oxford
  • Supporting novel trial designs using healthcare systems data to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on diabetes research. Prof Marion Mafham, University of Oxford
  • A regional approach for policy makers to tackle health inequalities in cardiovascular disease and its risk factors. Prof Reecha Sofat, University of Liverpool
  • Validation of SCORE2 10-year cardiovascular disease risk prediction models before and after the Covid-19 pandemic in the population of England. Lisa Pennells, University of Cambridge
  • Assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on incidence of myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke, by mental illness status. Dr Caroline Jackson, University of Edinburgh
  • The first England-wide study of pregnant women with pre-existing heart disease: the impact of Covid-19 diagnosis and vaccination. Professor Angela Wood, University of Cambridge
  • British Burden of Cardiovascular Disease. Dr. William Whiteley, University of Edinburgh
  • The impact of vaccination on the excess clinical risks of COVID-19 in patients with congenital heart disease. Dr Simon Williams, University of Manchester
  • Impact of COVID-19 on the association between Type 2 diabetes and incidence of cardiovascular diseases.   Dr Stephen Kaptoge, University of Cambridge
  • Improving the accuracy, equity and efficiency of using healthcare systems data for recruitment to a clinical trial involving people with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes mellitus: a simulation study in the ‘COVID era’ using the CVD COVID UK dataset. Dr Alice Hosking, University of Edinburgh
  • Impact of COVID-19 Clinical Care Pathway Changes on Gestational Diabetes Incidence and Pregnancy Outcomes. Professor Rebecca Reynolds, University of Edinburgh

Once approved, these studies appear on the Consortium pages. To find out more about the CVD-COVID-UK/COVID-IMPACT Consortium, read more here.

To find out more, join our online webinar in October – ‘Cardiovascular and Diabetes Awardee’ Mini Showcase.

  • diabetes
  • funding