Two Safety Pharmacology Society awards for Coventry University

Monday 07 December 2020

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Researchers from the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences (CSELS) and Coventry University spin-out company InoCardia have been presented with two prestigious awards from the Safety Pharmacology Society (SPS).

PhD student Sophie Fletcher, Professor Helen Maddock, Professor Rob James, Dr Rob Wallis, and Dr Mayel Gharanei received the Technological Innovation award for their publication on ‘The cardiac work-loop technique: an in vitro model for identifying and profiling drug-induced changes in inotropy using rat papillary muscles’.

Research has found that drugs can affect the heart in different ways, with some strengthening and improving contractility, and others causing damage and heart failure.

The ‘work-loop technique’ mimics the forces that are required to occur when the heart fills with blood in order for it to be pumped around the body. The team have been able to use this technique to test drugs to identify both negative and positive side effects on the heart.
This research will be crucial to the pharmaceutical industry, offering the potential to improve cardiovascular drug discovery and safety in the future.

Nominated by SPS members, publications are reviewed by the SPS Awards Committee which includes a panel of judges from some of the world’s biggest global pharma companies.

The winning papers are selected based on relevance to safety pharmacology, potential impact on the industry, uniqueness of research approaches and concepts, advancement of research understanding, quality of data, and clarity of writing.

Both the pharmaceutical industry and regulators recognise that contractility assessment is currently fraught with problems. We have been developing the work-loop technology to provide a clinically relevant and predictive solution to assessing drug-induced effects on cardiac contractility. We are delighted that our research has been recognised by the Safety Pharmacology Society for our technical innovation.

Professor Helen Maddock, Founder and CSO at InoCardia and Director at the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences.

Drug-induced cardiac contractility issues are often identified too late in research and development campaigns. These new techniques improve early detection of cardiac safety issues and will help pharmacologists avoid expensive downstream problems.

Dr Jeremy Billson, CEO at InoCardia.

This research was developed as part of an industry funded PhD at CSELS, co-funded by InoCardia. Along with the Technology Innovation award, Sophie Fletcher, the CSELS PhD student, received third place for SPS’s Junior Investigator Award for her research poster presentation on an advanced version of the work-loop technique. Sophie’s poster – which detailed tests run on six drugs - provides good evidence that the technique can be used before clinical trials in order to identify drugs that affect the heart’s ability to contract normally. InoCardia is now using a version of this technique to test compounds for pharmaceutical companies.

It means a lot to have our hard work recognised by SPS, knowing that we are having an impact within the safety pharmacology community. I am grateful to have undertaken an industry-based PhD studentship, it is only through the collaboration of CSELS and InoCardia that this work has been possible.

Sophie Fletcher, CSELS PhD student.

The team are now turning this research into computational modelling, and scaling down to apply the technique to heart cells with the aim of increasing the speed of screening drugs.

Find out more about the research happening at the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences.