Sir Nilesh Samani has been announced as the next medical director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF). He will succeed Peter Weissberg who will retire in October 2016 after 12 years as medical director of the cardiovascular research charity.
Samani is currently BHF professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester (Leicester, UK), head of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University, director of the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Unit and a consultant cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.
He is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a National Institute for Health Research senior investigator. In 2015 Samani was knighted for services to medicine and medical research.
Samani has co-led the discovery of over 50 genes associated with coronary heart disease. The BHF Family Heart Study, of which he was co-principal investigator, made a substantial contribution to this effort, according to a press release.
Samani says, “It is an enormous privilege to serve the Foundation as medical director. From my own experience, I know the central role the BHF plays in supporting cardiovascular research in the UK. Advances made through research funded by donations to the BHF have saved countless lives both in the UK and world-wide and reduced the devastating burden of premature heart disease on families and individuals.”
In October 2015 the BHF announced its new research strategy, and committed to spending over half a billion pounds on research over five years. The medical director of the BHF oversees the charity’s research funding. Through donations to the charity, the BHF funds over 1,000 different research grants at any one time.
Samani says, “Although there has been great progress, cardiovascular diseases still remain the number one killer and a growing problem in many parts of the world. The BHF has recently announced an ambitious strategy for funding research for the next five years so it’s tremendously exciting to take on this role at this stage.
“By working with the research community in the UK and overseas, the NHS and other funders, including the government, and patients and the public, we will continue to make important breakthroughs that save and benefit the lives of people with heart and circulatory disease.”
Alongside his new role as the BHF’s medical director, Samani will continue research at the University of Leicester and some clinical work at Glenfield Hospital, part of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, says, “His research has greatly advanced our understanding of how our DNA affects our heart disease risk, which is now guiding researchers looking for more effective future treatments.”
Paul Boyle, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester says, “Samani’s world-class work has helped to establish Leicester as an internationally renowned centre of excellence for cardiovascular research. His results have had a huge local and global impact. He has pioneered major advances in his field and he will bring this wealth of experience to bear on advancing the excellent work the British Heart Foundation does.”