Professor Will Whiteley to lead Stroke Data Science Catalyst

29 Aug 2023

Stroke expert Professor Will Whiteley has been named Associate Director of the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre, where he will lead efforts to understand the causes and consequences of stroke, using data-led research.

Will is set to head up the Stroke Data Science Catalyst, a partnership between the Stroke Association, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) established to champion and enable the power of data to further stroke research.

Professor Cathie Sudlow, Director of the BHF Data Science Centre and Chief Scientist of Health Data Research UK, said: “Cardiovascular health and brain health are intricately linked, and conditions such as high blood pressure can have a huge effect on risk of stroke. Will’s post underlines our commitment to using data to understand stroke and reduce its devastating consequences on patients and their families.”

Stroke affects one person in the UK every five minute and happens when blood supply to the brain is cut off. The effects of stroke depend on which part of the brain has been damaged, and for how long, but it can lead to slowed speech, cognitive issues, and muscle weakness.

Will remains Professor of Neurology at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh and Consultant Neurologist at NHS Lothian where his clinical specialism is in stroke, dementia and transient ischaemic attacks (TIA) – ‘mini strokes’ that are caused by short interruption of blood supply to the brain.

Will’s research interests lie in big data, public health, and disability caused by stroke and dementia. He is a passionate advocate of the open science approach of shared knowledge and collaboration and a member of the CVD-COVID-UK/COVID-IMPACT Consortium.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Will spearheaded projects with the Consortium into the cardiovascular safety of COVID-19 vaccines, suggesting that there was no average increased risk of major clots due to Pfizer or Astra-Zeneca vaccination in those under 70.

He also co-led research suggesting that COVID infection can lead to increased risk of blood clots for almost a year after infection.

He said: “The power of data science was shown during the pandemic when scientists ethically used health data to make swift findings to guide crucial policy responses. The BHF Data Science Centre was at the cutting-edge of this work. Now, with the Stroke Data Science Catalyst, I hope that we can apply the lessons learned to stroke research and speed up attempts to save more families from the misery it can cause.” 

Find out more about the Stroke Data Science Catalyst here.

Find out more about the Stroke Association here.

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