The University of Sydney secured a AU$1.4M grant plus AU$2M from industry and partners with Allelica, Inc. to advance heart disease prevention strategies through Polygenic Risk Score application
NEW YORK, June 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Professor Gemma Figtree at The University of Sydney and her multi-disciplinary team have been awarded AU$1.4 million by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Projects as part of a collaborative effort between academics and policy makers in Australia. The project leverages an additional AU$2.0 million from leading industry and health partners. By teaming up and investing in health research projects, they will implement a coronary artery disease PRS, developed by Allelica, Inc., in the Australian primary care setting to improve precision risk identification and assess precision medicine strategies to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Australia.
The University of Sydney has chosen to partner with Allelica to advance preventive healthcare strategies for coronary artery disease through the clinical application of polygenic risk score in risk assessment.
The University has a demonstrated history of collaboration with innovators in industry, including Microsoft, and is now partnering with Allelica, Sonic Healthcare and Siemens Healthineers, among others, as part of cardiovascular research led by Professor Gemma Figtree.
"Rolling our research out into practice is very important to us and we are thrilled to be working on these new projects with industry and government partners," said University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Duncan Ivison.
The project is focused on improving heart disease prevention strategies through the application of Allelica's PRS in precision risk assessment. By integrating the polygenic risk factor in traditional risk models, the project seeks to increase accuracy in risk classification, leading to increased efficacy and personalization in primary prevention strategies.
As the leading cause of death worldwide, coronary artery disease is caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries which limits the blood supply to the heart and can lead to heart attack or stroke. Existing risk assessments for coronary artery disease focus on cholesterol levels and other risk factors such as smoking status, age and blood pressure. However, these assessments miss a substantial proportion of the population who are at high risk but do not manifest these standard modifiable risk factors, the so-called "SMuRF-less" patients. The SMuRF-less population can account for up to 24% of heart attack cases and also shows higher all-cause mortality at 30 days, especially in women, as published by Prof. Gemma Figtree and colleagues in The Lancet earlier this year. In a recent study published in Circulation, Allelica researchers found a critical interaction between LDL-cholesterol level and Polygenic Risk Score (PRS) that helps to identify SMuRF-less high risk individuals. The results of the study revealed that bad cholesterol does not affect everyone in the same way, and individuals with high PRS and average LDL-C have the same risk as those with hypercholesterolemia. Therefore the definition of the LDL-C threshold to be considered a risk factor should be revised and lowered according to the individual PRS.
The implications of Allelica's work are critical for CAD prevention: by neglecting to take PRS into account in risk assessments, up to 15% of the population is at high risk of a potentially preventable cardiac event because their risk is undetected. Consequently, these patients are not prescribed the prevention strategies necessary to reduce the possibility of a heart attack or stroke.
"The first step in reducing the impact of preventable chronic disease is to identify people at high risk," says Allelica CEO, Giordano Bottà. "In the case of coronary artery disease, the root of the problem is the dangerous lack of accuracy in most risk classification models."
The goal of the project is to test PRS applications in clinical practice in Australia, in an effort to validate them and integrate them into routine clinical risk assessments. Participants in the study will be tested for CAD PRS and results will be also returned through Allelica's platform.
This world-first study will provide robust data about whether this new method of prediction works in the real world in heart health checks in primary care and will directly inform clinical guidelines and government policy.
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