DALLAS, August 10, 2020 —The American Heart Association has awarded an additional $400,000 in research grants focused on the cardiovascular impact of COVID-19. The awards go to four more teams who submitted proposals for theCOVID-19 and Its Cardiovascular Impact Rapid Response Grantsduring the original submission process in March.
The new research projects include:
- Cleveland Clinic, led by Mina Chung, M.D., Professor of Medicine — Testing of SARS-CoV-2 Infectivity and Antiviral Drug Effects in Engineered Heart Tissue, Microglial Cell Models, and COVID-19 Patient Registries: This team will use a multidisciplinary approach to 1) Study the interaction of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in cardiac and brain cells, 2) screen possible candidate drugs targeting mechanisms of viral infection in these cells, and 3) assess these drugs using AHA’s COVID-19 registry. Expected outcomes include identification of drugs that can be repurposed and advanced toward clinical trials for treatment of COVID-19.
- Johns Hopkins University, led by Daniela Cihakova M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Immune Disorders Laboratory — Pathogenesis of Cardiac Inflammation During COVID-19 Infection: This team will seek to identify a potential peripheral biomarker of cardiac inflammation in COVID-19 and address possible mechanisms that lead to cardiac infection and subsequent injury. The results of these studies will also significantly contribute to the knowledge of the immune response in COVID-19 patients.
- Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, co-led by Clive Svendsen, Ph.D., Director of the institute Kerry and Simone Vickar Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Regenerative Medicine and Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine, and by Arun Sharma, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow — Human iPSCs and Organ Chips Model SARS-CoV-2-Induced Viral Myocarditis: This team will investigate whether SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect human cardiomyocytes, assess resulting effects and seek to establish a cardiomyocyte-specific antiviral drug screening platform against SARS-CoV-2. The findings potentially may lead to development of novel therapeutics for the cardiac-specific effects of COVID-19.
- New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, led by Emily J. Tsai, M.D., Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Medicine — Elucidating the Pathogenesis of COVID-19 Cardiac Disease Through snRNA-Seq and Histopathological Analysis of Human Myocardium: This team will compare single nuclei RNA sequences and histopathological findings between the hearts of COVID-19 non-survivors with and without suspected COVID-19 cardiac disease. Understanding the viral and host factors that drive cardiac injury in COVID-19 will help determine appropriate therapeutic strategies.
More than 750 scientific research proposals were submitted this spring during the call for proposals for the COVID-19 and Its Cardiovascular Impact Rapid Response Grant initiative. It is one of the Association’s largest submissions ever to a single topic request for applications.
“We were impressed by the magnitude and quality of the proposals submitted for these grants and we’re very excited to be able to extend additional funding to four more teams of exceptional research scientists,” said Mitchell Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAHA, FAAN, president of the American Heart Association, professor of neurology and epidemiology at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and attending neurologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “Addressing this global crisis is critical not only for the nearly 120 million people in the U.S. living with one or more cardiovascular diseases who are at high risk for complications from COVID-19, but also because we need to learn more about the many other emerging connections between this novel coronavirus and cardiovascular disease.”
The research projects are considered fast-tracked to report results as quickly as possible to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Research projects are already underway, with findings expected in less than six to nine months for most of the studies.
The American Heart Association has now funded 20 research grants focused on learning more about COVID-19 — 16 of these fast-tracked projects and four special awards to centers of Association’s Health Technologies and Innovation Strategically Focused Research Network.
Funding research such as these projects is a cornerstone of the American Heart Association’s lifesaving mission. The Association has funded more than $4.6 billion in cardiovascular research since 1949, making it the single largest non-government supporter of heart and brain health research in the U.S.