Frederick Roth part of team awarded $75 million to find cures for heart disease

Frederick Roth, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Integrative Biology at the University of Toronto, is a member of a team that has been awarded the One Brave Idea Research Award.

The five-year, $75-million award from the American Heart Association (AHA), Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) and AstraZeneca will support collaborative research among clinicians, biologists and computational scientists towards better diagnosis and finding cures for coronary heart disease.

Despite progress in medicine, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the world. This is partly because we still lack the ability to detect heart disease before much of the damage to the patient has occurred. By combining wearable technology that collects unprecedented amounts of personal data with DNA sequencing and advanced computational analysis, the researchers hope to get ahead of the disease.

Calum MacRae, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, is leading the interdisciplinary to uncover the causes of heart disease and the once unrecognized signals marking the shift from being well to the earliest, yet still largely invisible, stages of the disease.

Roth is a professor of molecular genetics and computer science in the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre. He is also a senior scientist at Sinai Health System’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute and co-directs the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Program in Genetic Networks. He leads a research team carrying out computational biology and large-scale genetic assays. His team will bring to the table innovative data analysis and the latest advances in next-generation sequencing applications to help drive progress towards personalized medicine for coronary heart disease.

“By combining computational and experimental strategies, we would like to help identify traits that are early predictors of coronary heart disease. These traits may in turn identify the genes that impact outcomes alone or in combination,” says Roth.

“My lab is systematically testing the consequences of genetic differences, or variants, in human disease genes. By building ‘lookup tables’ of harmful variants before a patient’s genome is sequenced, we can more immediately take appropriate therapeutic measures, even before we see the standard symptoms of disease.”

In addition to Roth’s lab at the University of Toronto, the team includes research groups from Harvard University, Boston University, MIT, Stanford University and Northeastern University.

“Alone, each of our organizations has helped to transform our understanding of coronary artery disease. Yet, for all the success we have had, there has been no legacy of resources upon which to continue building,” said MacRae. “Our project will create a global consortium to support programs from idea conception to clinical realization, and establish a lasting resource for future research endeavours in cardiovascular and other chronic disease.”

AHA, Verily and AstraZeneca launched One Brave Idea in January 2016 as the largest one-time award to a single team to find a cure to end coronary heart disease and its consequences.