Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. There have been advances in treatment and prevention, but a new initiative aims to stop it altogether.
Dr. Calum MacRae faces a challenging task. He is the vice chair for scientific innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the principal investigator of One Brave Idea, a joint project focused on preventing and reversing coronary heart disease. It’s co-funded by the American Heart Association and Verily, with support from AstraZeneca.
MacRae was recently awarded $75 million to lead One Brave Idea. His goal is to find early clues about heart disease and stop it before it starts.
“We’ve known really since the Korean War that even teenagers have very early evidence of heart disease in a very small percentage. You can actually assess, in a teenager over a number of years, how their physiology is changing with respect to exercise, temperature, a meal, what type of meal it is,” MacRae said.
MacRae’s team of software developers, clinicians and researchers are now working on ways to easily gather and analyze that data in a systematic way.
“New approaches to analyzing X-rays, to analyzing even photographs of the back of your eye, the patterns of blood vessels on your skin. We’re also thinking about how your personality, how what you eat, how the way you interact with your friends and family, how all of those things give us information about what your long-term risks are,” MacRae said.
MacRae and his team are funded to run for the next five years. The initiative is run much more like a start-up company. They use fail-fast, fail-early strategies, so the team can focus on the ideas that could truly put an end to heart disease.