Researchers at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry have been awarded $26.3 million in funding from the Government of Canada to host and establish the Canadian Arrhythmia Network (CANet) as a Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE).
This funding will be used to help reduce the burden of health conditions related to arrhythmia — otherwise known as heart rhythm disturbances — such as syncope, atrial fibrillation and sudden cardiac death. The goal is to improve the health of millions of patients across Canada suffering from heart rhythm disturbances by developing, implementing and evaluating new technologies and health strategies.
Dr. Anthony Tang, a professor in Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Department of Medicine’s cardiology division and scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute, will be leading the network as its Scientific Director and CEO.
“In Canada, there are a lot of people dying prematurely from sudden cardiac death,” Dr. Tang explained. “Even though we have some ways of dealing with it, it’s still the number one cause of people dying — even more so than cancers.” He added that CANet will generate benefits to Canada through the creation and use of new technological innovation to advance care in a more effective, affordable and sustainable manner.
While Dr. Tang and his colleagues have been collaborating on clinical arrhythmia research for a number of years, he said they have never been coordinated enough to develop a formal network.
He is pleased that numerous specialists and researchers across the country have made this new development possible, to allow research in this field to progress even further.
“There are more than 100 investigators across Canada involved, ranging from clinician-scientists like myself to engineers, basic scientists and social scientists,” he said. “In addition, we also have a partnership with patients who are dealing with arrhythmia problems. They will be contributing toward the idea of research, and the research will be applicable to them.”
Western is well known for the excellence of arrhythmia care and research. London, Ontario is also home to Canada’s first arrhythmia clinic, first surgical treatment of ventricular tachycardia, and first to commercialize the implantable loop recorder. This not only helped to establish an environment suitable to host CANet — it is also the reason Dr. Tang joined Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s team.
“I’ve been with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry for a little more than year now, and what attracted me to come here was its impressive group of arrhythmia specialists,” Dr. Tang said. “London is the place where the entire arrhythmia field was started many years ago, and the School continues to have the ability to advance in this research area.”
For Dr. Tang, this funding announcement is encouraging as it will give him the opportunity to extend all of the work he has been doing beyond the four walls of the hospital and into the community.
Along with the funding from the Government of Canada, Western University has committed $1.2 million to support CANet’s research and operations, and will house its administrative offices in the Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine.