Flagships | Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA)

Six Strategic Flagships bring a new vision, new thinking and new strategies to solve cardiovascular disease. These Flagships cut across the four major clinical challenges where critical need is matched by scientific expertise – atherosclerosis, heart muscle disease, arrhythmia and stroke.

The Flagships capitalise on Australia’s track record in cardiovascular research providing a unique opportunity to bridge the early translational gap, take advantage of venture capital funding and establish a global centre of innovation, treatment and industry.

The Flagship structure brings together the entire cardiovascular research community and promotes a whole-of-nation approach along a bi-directional translational pipeline. This ensures Australian researchers are aligned to the most urgent clinical challenges and that discoveries and innovative approaches to care are translated to the bedside in an accelerated manner.

Australia has an admirable health system and a well-deserved reputation for the quality of its health and medical research. The coming tsunami of cardiovascular disease will test the resilience and effectiveness of the country’s research governance and historical funding allocating frameworks.

The ACvA’s Flagships are uniquely positioned to strategically ensure Australian cardiovascular research transforms the future health of the country, providing vision and leadership of a national alliance, ensuring all Australians benefit from receiving the very best cardiovascular care.

The Director(s) of each flagship are below. 

1. Implementation and Policy Research.

Delivers the best cardiovascular care for all Australians, from prevention and primary care through to the interventional catheter laboratory and operating theatre.

Professor Garry Jennings AO

Garry is a cardiologist with a distinguished career in clinical practice who has previously held the role of Director of Cardiology at The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne as well as Directorship at independent research institute Baker IDI for 14 years. After 14 years as Director of Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, and serving as the Interim CEO of the National Heart Foundation, Professor Garry Jennings AO is now the Executive Director at Sydney Health Partners. His clinical and public health research interests span the causes of prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. He is a regular media commentator and was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013.

2. Clinical Trials Flagship.

Provides rigorous testing of Australian discoveries and devices, and drug repurposing. This position is Co-Directed.

Professor Chris Reid

Christopher Reid is a cardiovascular epidemiologist and clinical trialist with appointments as a John Curtin Distinguished Professor in the School of Public Health at Curtin University in Perth and as Director of the Monash Centre of Cardiovascular Research and Education in Therapeutics in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University in Melbourne.  He holds a National Health and Medical Research Council Principal Research Fellowship in addition to being a Chief Investigator on NHMRC Program, Project, and Centre of Research Excellence Grants focusing on cardiovascular disease prevention.

Professor Vincent Thijs

Vincent Thijs is a stroke neurologist and clinician researcher specialised in stroke research with more than 15 years of experience in the field. His main research topics include acute stroke imaging, genetics of stroke, stroke in the young, atrial fibrillation and cryptogenic stroke. He has published more than 250 papers in the field of stroke, including co-authorship in top tier journals NEJM (4), Lancet (1), Nature Medicine (1), Nature Genetics (3), and Lancet Neurology (4) and >30 articles in the leading journal of the field Stroke. He has extensive experience, being involved in all stages of trial design, oversight and execution. He is/has been on the steering committee of 10 randomized clinical trials (MITI-IV, WAKEUP, SCAST, TASTE, AXIS2, REACT-AF, DIAGNOSE-AF, SOCRATES, RESPECT-ESUS, TEXAIS) and was national coordinator of more than 10 trials both in the field of acute stroke and secondary prevention of stroke. He also participated in outcome adjudication committees of clinical trials and their economic analysis. In his career as clinician he has lead stroke units in Belgium and Australia. He is the co-head of the Stroke Division at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. He is the co-chair of the Australasian Stroke Trials Network.

3. Big Data Flagship.

Develops large-scale data linkage and leverages emerging opportunities in data science. Supports epidemiology and health services research, monitoring and evaluation. This position is Co-Directed

Professor Emily Banks

Professor Emily Banks is a public health physician and epidemiologist with interest and expertise in applying large-scale data to cardiovascular disease, cancer, Aboriginal Health and healthy ageing. She currently leads the Epidemiology for Policy and Practice group at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. She is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, Deputy Chair of the Heart Foundation Research Committee and a Visiting Professor at Oxford University. She chaired the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Medicines from 2010-2016. She was based in the UK from 1995-2003, where she was Deputy Director of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford and joint Principal Investigator of the Million Women Study.

Professor Louisa Jorm

Professor Louisa Jorm is the Foundation Director of the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia. She has worked in senior leadership roles in both government and academia, giving her unique opportunities for translational research impacts. Professor Jorm is an international leader in health ‘big data’ research and specifically in applying advanced analytic methods to large-scale routinely collected data, including hospital inpatient and medical and pharmaceutical claims data. Her main current research interests are in application of advanced analytics to large scale electronic health data to create real-world evidence about topics including disparities in cardiovascular disease care and outcomes, variation in surgical outcomes, healthcare at end-of-life and Aboriginal health. She has played a leading role in the establishment of major infrastructure and capacity for ‘big data’ health research in Australia, including the E-Research Institutional Cloud Architecture (ERICA) secure data analysis facility. Professor Jorm has published >160 scientific papers and been awarded >$30 million in research grants. She is a high-profile advocate for more and better use of routinely collected health data for research.

4. Precision Medicine Flagship.

Embeds multi-omic platforms (from genomics to metabolomics) and computational bioinformatics with well-phenotyped clinical cohorts to discover new markers and mechanisms. This position is Co-Directed.

Prof. Peter Meikle

Professor Peter Meikle is the Head of the Systems Biology Domain and the Metabolomics Laboratory at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.  He is Editor in Chief of Metabolites, the official Journal of the International Metabolomics Society. His research has a focus on the dysregulation of lipid metabolism associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and its relationship to the pathogenesis of these disease states.  This work is leading to new approaches to early diagnosis and risk assessment, and to the development of new lipid modulating therapies for chronic disease.

Professor Alicia Jenkins

Alicia is a clinician researcher endocrinologist and Professor, Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, Uni of Sydney. She has a Biomarker Laboratory with expertise in clinical, biochemical and molecular markers of relevance to diabetes and vascular disease. She leads clinical trials in diabetes complications. Alicia holds a NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship and has over 370 publications.

5. Biomedical Engineering Flagship.

The Biomedical Engineering Flagship consists of 4 research themes:

Tissue and Engineering and Cellular Assays: The Tissue and Engineering and Cellular Assays theme is focused on the fundamental development and application of new models and therapeutics to improve cardiovascular health. New models cardiovascular cell culture models in vitro combined with in silico modelling is being used to improve and accelerate genetic diagnosis, drug toxicology and drug discovery. Tissue engineering strategies are also being used to create replacement heart muscle and vessels.

Biomaterials: The Biomaterials theme is focused on the development, characterisation, pre-clinical evaluation, and application of biomaterials focusing on both the fundamental science and clinical application of biomaterials. This theme strongly interfaces with other disciplines, in particular drug delivery, tissue engineering and devices to providing new solutions for improvements in cardiovascular health.

Imaging and Analysis: The Imagine theme spans clinical and pre-clinical imaging across non-invasive and invasive cardiovascular imaging modalities. A focus on technical development including image acquisition physics, image reconstruction, post-processing, and image analysis is improving cardiovascular imaging for diagnosis, risk-stratification, monitoring of therapeutic efficacy, and both clinical and pre-clinical mechanistic insight.

Devices and Diagnostics: The Device and Diagnostics theme is focused on improving the monitoring, clinical decision making and interventional management of cardiovascular health. This covers wearable devices, stents, in vivo diagnostic devices and pacemakers to improve both the efficiency of our health systems and patient cardiovascular health.

Click HERE to read the description of the Biomedical Engineering Flagship. This Position is Co-Directed.

A/Prof. James Hudson

A/Prof James Hudson is the Group Leader for the Organoid Research Lab at QIMR Berghofer. He completed a double major in Chemical and Biological Engineering and subsequently completed his PhD on cardiac tissue engineering at The University of Queensland in 2011. He was then awarded a German Cardiology Society postdoctoral fellowship with Prof Wolfram-Hubertus Zimmermann in Germany. In 2013 Dr Hudson returned to Australia on a NHMRC ECF and is currently an NHMRC CDF and National Heart Foundation Future Leaders Fellow. Over his career Dr Hudson’s work has focused on the use of stem cell-derived heart cells for tissue engineering applications and is now working together with academic and industry partners discover new therapeutic targets for heart disease.

Professor Peter Barlis

MBBS MPH PhD FESC FACC FSCAI FCSANZ MAICD FRACP.

Peter is an Interventional Cardiologist with St Vincent’s & Northern Hospitals in Victoria and Professor of Medicine with the University of Melbourne where he heads the cardiovascular biomedical engineering group, a team built on a unique structure designed to connect engineers and scientists with clinicians.
Since returning to Australia following training in the Netherlands and the UK, he has been actively promoting cardiovascular research at an institutional, public and government level. He is at the forefront of advanced cardiac imaging having introduced optical coherence tomography (OCT) technology to Australia. He has since overseen OCT’s uptake across the region with over 80 centres now benefiting from his foresight. He is internationally renowned for his interventional and imaging academic output, and early development programs for novel therapies in cardiovascular disease. He has run numerous human interventional trials for novel devices, including new coronary stent designs using sophisticated imaging endpoints.
Peter’s vision is to forge a vibrant national network of clinicians, scientists, engineers and industry partners to help drive new advances strategically targeting cardiovascular disease. At the core of this effort will be a research culture embracing discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship, thereby building a more competitive and productive medical technology ecosystem for cardiovascular research in Australia.

6. Drug Discovery and Translation Flagship.

Promotes targeted development of new therapies incorporating emerging biology.

Professor Grant Drummond 

Grant Drummond is Professor and Head of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology (PAM), and Co-director of the Centre for Cardiovascular Biology and Disease Research (CCBDR) at La Trobe University. He is also an Associate Editor for the British Journal of Pharmacology and Cardiovascular Research. His research is in the area of cardiovascular and chronic kidney disease with a specific focus on understanding the roles of oxidative stress and the immune system in promoting the vascular and renal inflammation that contributes to these conditions. Grant Drummond’s work has provided novel insights into the roles of NADPH oxidase-derived reactive oxygen species as signalling molecules under physiological conditions, and mediators of oxidative damage in vascular disease. His studies have also shed new light on the involvement of inflammasomes and interleukin-18, and B cells and autoantibodies in the development of hypertension and kidney damage. His work is funded primarily by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the Heart Foundation of Australia.

Professor Rebecca Ritchie 

Rebecca Ritchie is the Theme Leader of the Drug Discovery Biology Theme in the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) in Parkville, in addition to leading the Heart Failure Pharmacology laboratory within the Theme. She assumed this role in October 2019, after 17 years as Head of Heart Failure Pharmacology and Chair of Science Faculty at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. Rebecca is internationally-recognised for her contributions to cardiac pharmacology. Her translationally-focused research objective is the identification of new treatment strategies for arresting the progression of heart failure, particularly in the context of diabetes, myocardial infarction and other inflammatory disorders. These strategies have been both pharmacological and gene delivery-based. The research achievements of Professor Ritchie to date include 116 career publications (spanning both preclinical models of disease and patient studies), continuous peer-reviewed funding since 1999 (comprising project grant and Fellowship support from NHMRC, Diabetes Australia, the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia and the Heart Foundation). Her international profile in her chosen field has been further recognised by numerous prestigious speaking invitations, including multiple World Congresses, including Cardiology, Diabetes, Pharmacology, and the International Society for Heart Research, as well as the American Heart Association and the British Pharmacology Society. These contributions to cardiac pharmacology have been recognised by the prestigious 2019 ASCEPT visitor to the British Pharmacology Society, the 2012 ASCEPT Achievement Award, the 2013 Diabetes Australia Millenium Award, and election as a Fellow of the American Heart Association in 2013. Rebecca currently serves an executive role on the International Society of Heart Research (as Membership Secretary of the Australasian section, 2016-2022), in addition to her board membership of ASCEPT.