There wasn’t a spare seat in the house as clinicians, cardiologists, researchers and other esteemed guests gathered at The University of Sydney to celebrate the collaboration between the Heart Research Institute (HRI) and Charles Perkins Centre (CPC).
The Showcase was co-led by the two institutions and hosted by HRI’s CEO and Scientific Director Prof Andrew Coats AO and CPC’s Academic Director, Prof Stephen Simpson AC, who kicked off the event with a warm and inspiring welcome address.
“The aim of the showcase is to recognise the outstanding cardiovascular research that has come about as a result of the rich collaborations between HRI and CPC and more importantly, to look ahead to the exciting future possibilities,” Prof Coats said. “We are excited to build on past achievements, to look forward and develop new ideas and collaborations.”
“We set out a decade ago to bring together HRI, The University of Sydney, and Sydney Local Health District within a single facility and under a shared vision at the CPC. This Showcase is both a testament to the remarkable success of that shared vision and provides inspiration for the future of the partnership,” Prof Simpson said.
An impressive line-up of 16 presenters, including many of Australia’s leading cardiologists and researchers, then took to the front of the Mackenzie Room at the CPC to showcase their work in a three-minute presentation and with just one slide.
The format allowed for a “short and sharp” overview of all the brilliant science and life-saving cardiovascular research that has arisen as a result of the HRI and CPC collaboration – and in many cases, an insight into the speaker’s personal story.
The three themes of the Showcase were ‘The heart’, ‘Multi-disciplinary innovation’ and ‘Blood and vessels’, which were each followed by a stimulating panel discussion.
Among the speakers in the first session was Prof Phil Harris, a now-retired cardiologist and former Head of Medicine at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, who spearheaded the creation of HRI in 1989, along with two other RPA colleagues.
Assoc Prof Sean Lal spoke about his journey to become a consultant cardiologist at RPA and the director of acute heart failure services.
“When I was 10, my dad developed acute heart failure from a viral infection and needed a heart transplant, which was performed by Dr Victor Chang,” he said, propelling Sean to study medicine at The University of Sydney.
Assoc Prof Lal’s research in the School of Medical Sciences now focuses on the mechanisms of heart failure, cardiovascular ageing, and cardiac regeneration. He is also the director of the Sydney Heart Bank – the largest biorepository of human heart tissue in the world, which is supported by the Faculty of Medicine and Heath and the Baird Institute. It is located at the CPC.
Prof Ben Freedman, OAM, whose work is truly interdisciplinary, was a highlight of session two. He shared personal news along with insights into his research into atrial fibrillation (AF) and Indigenous health.
“Ironically, I suffered a haemorrhagic stroke four months ago and I am now more determined than ever to make a difference and to prevent strokes from AF,” he said.
Far-ranging and fascinating research insights were shared, including: the use of “mini-hearts” and 3D bioprinting (Dr Carmine Gentile), blood-sucking organisms as anticoagulants (Prof Richard Payne), the development of a novel anti-clotting drug for stroke (Prof Shaun Jackson and Assoc Prof Simone Schoenwaelder), measuring heart disease using imaging (Prof Stuart Grieve), precision development medicine (Dr Johnny Liu), preventing amputations in peripheral artery disease patients (Assoc Prof Mary Kavurma), and a world-first exercise trial for patients with congenital heart disease (Assoc Prof Rachael Cordina).
As more than one speaker pointed out, the shared network and facilities of the two institutions really do provide a rich environment to nurture students, form partnerships, share ideas and develop cutting-edge collaborations.
“The partnership between HRI and CPC will continue to be a vital part of developing future research talent, especially in the cardiovascular space,” said Dr Alexander Dupuy, a recent postdoctoral research associate, who was also the last speaker of the day.
Closing remarks were provided by Prof Kathy Belov, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Global Research and Engagement at USyd, who noted the strength of cardiovascular research in Sydney and the importance of partnerships and collaborations.
“Cardiovascular research is so strong in Sydney. It is certainly not happening in just one building. There is a network of universities, MRIs and hospitals all connected together,” she said.
“One of the key tenets of our 2032 strategy for The University of Sydney is the role of partnerships – and the advantage that comes with multidisciplinary research such as been showcased here today.
“We want to tackle the world’s greatest challenges, by leveraging our partnerships to drive multi-disciplinary problem-solving.”