With 40,000 people falling victim to some form of it every year, sudden cardiac death has become the number one killer of Canadians.
With such daunting numbers in mind, the federal government announced funding that will be used to create a network of scientific research charged with finding effective diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disturbances.
Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry has been tabbed as the hub of that network.
On Dec. 15, Minister of State (Science and Technology) and London West MP Ed Holder helped announce $26.3 million in funding that will be used to establish the Canadian Arrhythmia Network (CANet) as a Networks of Centres of Excellence.
“It is huge for London, Ont., huge for Western. This recognizes their absolutely critical, world-leading research role in providing collaborative research to deal with the number-one killer of Canadians,” Holder said. “London will be the hub for that (research).”
CANet will establish a network of more than 100 investigators from across the country with the aim of bringing efficiency, accessibility and sustainability to arrhythmia health through innovation.
The network will include clinicians, researchers, engineers, patients, industry and government partners. This multidisciplinary network of world-class leaders will be a unique strength of CANet.
Dr. Anthony Tang, a professor in the Department of Medicine at Schulich and a Lawson Health Research Institute scientist, will serve as scientific director and CEO of the newly established network.
“The results we gather from this, the information we gather from it, will be applicable to individuals across the country, as well as internationally,” Tang said. “We need this kind of funding to put our network together, as well as engage with other researchers in other fields such as engineering, wireless technology and industry so we can have a much larger impact.”
Along with the Government of Canada funding, Western University has committed $1.2 million to support CANet’s research and operations, and will house its administrative offices in the Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine.
Holder said the formation of the network “ties in so nicely” in terms of what the federal government is doing concerning the science, technology and innovation strategy Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced two weeks ago.
"Our government is making the necessary investments to push the boundaries of knowledge, create jobs and prosperity and improve the quality of life of Canadians,” Holder said. “The newest additions to the Network of Centres of Excellence will undertake research into important aspects of biochemistry, cancer, arrhythmia, aging and brain development, leveraging nation-wide talent and resources to tackle social and economic challenges that are important to Canadians."
The network formalizes a relationship, Tang said, that researchers across Canada have utilized for years.
However, he was quick to add the research that has been undertaken has now reached a threshold where further advancement is only possible by a more formal relationship.
“To engage more expertise, more innovative solutions, we need this kind of funding to put our network together,” Tang said. “As well as engage with other researchers in other fields such as engineering, wireless technology and industry so we can have a much larger impact.”
Western president Amit Chakma cites London’s history of excellence in arrhythmia care and research as a key component to hosting this network.
London, Chakma said, is home to Canada’s first arrhythmia clinic, first surgical treatment of ventricular tachycardia (a rapid heartbeat caused by improper electrical activity), and first to commercialize the implantable loop recorder (a cardiac monitor).
“This established environment provides the perfect foundation to host CANet at Western,” Chakma said.