Working Together to Repair Broken Hearts

Weizmann UK joined forces with the British Heart Foundation on Tuesday 7 March to host an event bringing together Professor Eldad Tzahor from the Weizmann Institute of Science and Professor Paul Riley from the University of Oxford.  The two scientists discussed their collaborative research which uses heart cells to restore damaged muscle following a heart attack.

Justin Webb, presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, brought his expertise as a broadcaster, and personal experience as a heart patient, to the event to chair the two scientists’ conversation which took place at the Wellcome Collection.

As well as discussing their research, the speakers spoke about the importance of scientific collaboration.   Their research has been co-funded by the British Heart Foundation as part of the BIRAX (British Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership) programme since 2015 and has been yielding some exciting findings. 

The speakers were welcomed by Dr Robert Easton, British Heart Foundation Trustee and Chairman of the Fundraising Board and Martin Paisner CBE, Chairman of Weizmann UK.

Talking of the value of the collaboration, Professor Eldad Tzahor said: “We have really managed to make this a true collaboration. By working together we have pushed the science further forward than we could have done alone.”

Talking about whether the researchers have encountered cultural differences in working together he added: “Science is a language – and in that sense we speak the same language. It has made it easy for us to throw ideas around.”

Professor Paul Riley said: “Because of the pressure on scientists to publish original research they are often reluctant to share ideas while they are developing, but openness and willingness to share information really has been key to the success of this partnership. This has meant we can share ideas at the earliest stages to see how they will develop.”

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and causes untold misery through disability. By bringing together the world’s best scientists we can drive forward cutting-edge research that will help us beat this common enemy sooner.

“The ground-breaking BIRAX initiative enables the BHF to fund top scientists in the UK to collaborate with colleagues in Israel, working together to find new treatments for the tens of millions of people across the world living with the terrible burden of heart disease.”

Martin Paisner CBE, Chairman of Weizmann UK said: “It is with particular pride that we are part of the BIRAX programme, especially when you see the potential this research has to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

See our gallery of images. 

Professor Eldad Tzahor's work is supported by the Dan Shapiro Memorial Fund for Cardiovascular Research.

More about:

Professor Eldad Tzahor

Born in Israel and raised on a kibbutz, Professor Eldad Tzahor joined the Weizmann Institute in 2003 following his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School. His current research focus is on mechanisms to regenerate the heart after birth. His research informs the field of regenerative medicine and may potentially lead to treatments for heart disease in adult patients.

Professor Paul Riley

Paul Riley is a British Heart Foundation Professor of Regenerative Medicine based at the University of Oxford. He is also Director of the BHF Oxbridge Centre for Regenerative Medicine. He was formerly Professor of Molecular Cardiology at the UCL-Institute of Child Health, London, where he was a principal investigator within the Molecular Medicine Unit for 12 years.

Justin Webb

Justin Webb presents the Today Programme on Radio 4. Before that he was a BBC foreign correspondent, including 8 years as the North America Editor based in Washington DC.

British Heart Foundation (BHF)

We are the UK’s number one heart charity and for over 50 years, the BHF have pioneered life saving research. And already, we’ve helped halve the number of people dying from heart and circulatory disease in the UK. Our mission is to win the fight against cardiovascular disease and our vision is a world in which people do not die prematurely or suffer from cardiovascular disease. Today we are funding thousands of research projects around the UK that are fighting heart disease. By 2020 we will fund; more vital research discoveries, lead the fight to prevent more people developing cardiovascular disease, help more people survive a cardiac arrest and ensure that more people receive the best possible support, information and care. 

BIRAX (the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership) is a multimillion pound initiative of the British Council, British Embassy in Israel and the UK Science & Innovation

Network in collaboration with the Pears Foundation and the UJIA. The BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative facilitates British - Israeli scientific research collaborations in the field of regenerative medicine.

Since 2011 there have been three calls for research proposals. To date research grants have been awarded to 29 labs working together on 15 bi-lateral three year collaborative research projects. These include three labs at the Weizmann Institute of Science working in collaboration with two labs at the University of Oxford and one lab at the University of Cambridge.

Since 2015 the British Heart Foundation have been co-funding the BIRAX research grant which has allowed Professor Riley and Professor Tzahor to collaborate on their ground-breaking research which looks at using heart cells to restore damaged muscle following a heart attack.

Published: March 08, 2017

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