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Delegates from across Australia gathered for the 2023 Sydney Cardiovascular Symposium, an annual event co-hosted by the Heart Research Institute (HRI) and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (VCCRI).

It marks the sixth year the two-day Symposium has been held, bringing together leading experts in health and medical research focused on the treatment, prevention and cure of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

This year’s event featured 50 inspiring speakers with the theme: “STEM-ming cardiovascular disease: Improving patient care through multidisciplinary approaches”. It was dedicated to “thinking outside the box”, with a focus on commercialising research outcomes.

A highlight of the annual Symposium is the Princesses’ Lecture, named in honour of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark. This year, the lecture was beautifully delivered by Prof David Kaye, Director of Cardiology and Senior Cardiologist at the Alfred Hospital, and leader of the Heart Failure Research Group at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

Prof Kaye shared his groundbreaking innovations in advancing heart failure care, taking attendees on a “bushwalk” through broken engines and failing hearts – revealing how tenacity and talent are the key to fix both.

Prof Alta Schutte delivered a spectacular keynote lecture, the Sydney Cardiovascular Symposium Lecture, focusing on her research into the management and control of hypertension. Prof Schutte took her captivated audience on a journey from South Africa to Bunnings, highlighting just how significant the issue of hypertension is around the world – and providing a roadmap to tackle it.

The STEM theme was fully embraced throughout the Symposium. Prof Jean Yang from The University of Sydney took a big data approach, characterising the lipid profiles of humans and chimpanzees to establish CVD risk, while Dr Michael Watson from the University of NSW convinced the crowd that pure mathematical models have a deserved place in all our research.

Prof Geoffrey Strange taught attendees how artificial intelligence could be used to address bias, Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina revealed the utility of silk biomaterials, and Dr Charles Cox explained how playing with mice can lead to solving ion channel gating mysteries. Prof Glenn King and Prof Richard Payne showed that playing with things that bite you can have their benefits.

According to HRI’s Dr Chris Stanley, co-lead of the Symposium Steering Committee, the one-minute rule was “thrown out the window” during the Symposium.

Prof David Celermajer AO and Prof John Fraser both kept the audience completely enthralled during their presentations, yet their styles could not have been more different. Prof Celermajer opted for just four slides during his talk about the trials and tribulations of starting a MedTech company, while Prof Fraser wowed the crowd with his experience in the same area with about 60 slides.

“Both speakers captivated the audience, imparted highly valuable lessons, kept to time and as if that wasn’t enough, we even got to see cows on a treadmill. How many times in your life can you say you have seen that?,” added Dr Stanley.

Many up-and-coming young researchers also had the chance to showcase their research. Their work was interwoven into all scientific sessions, and awards for Rising Stars, Best Flash Talks and Best Posters were also given.

Congratulations to Weizhen (Eva) Li from HRI’s Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling Unit for her Rising Star award and to Manisha Patel from the Vascular Complications Group, who was awarded a Best Poster prize.

The “elephant in the room”, commercialisation, was also a highlight of a pitching session facilitated by Dr Freda Passam.

“Our EMCRs dove headfirst into the shark tank and pitched their commercialisation ideas to a razor-sharp panel that included Sydney Universities Knowledge Hub guru Jane Cockburn,” said Dr Stanley. “The session was high energy, and the lessons learned invaluable.”

Prof Andrew Coats AO, Scientific Director and CEO of HRI opened the Symposium, and while Dr Stanley, Prof Ben Freedman, Assoc Prof Simone Schoenwaelder and Dr Xuyu (Johnny) Liu from HRI all chaired sessions, it was left to the VCCRI’s Executive Director Prof Jason Kovacic to close the event.

Prof Kovacic eloquently summarised the Symposium’s success and wide reach – and kept audiences on the edge of their seat by proposing future further reaching symposia.

“This year, we heard a very consistent and important underlying message throughout the Symposium,” said Dr Stanley. “To be successful in research and health care, we should never give up – a sentiment put best by Prof John Fraser: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’.”

View the full program here

HRI researchers who presented at the Symposium included the following.

  • Prof David Celermajer, Clinical Research Group – Starting a MedTech company from Australia – Process and pitfalls
  • Prof Geoffrey Strange, Clinical Research Group – BIG ECHO DATA and AI: Tackling unconscious clinical bias
  • Dr Chia Lun (Mike) Wu, Thrombosis Group – Ischemic endothelial necroptosis induces red cell hemolysis and COVID-19 microangiopathy
  • Dr Samuel Baldwin, Microvascular Research Unit – Marked oestrous cycle-dependent regulation of rat arterialKV7.4 channels driven by GPER1
  • Mr Cameron Trought, Thrombosis Group – Developing novel anticoagulants for stroke therapy
  • Ms Ivy Guan, Cardiovascular-protective Signalling and Drug Discovery Unit – Uncovering hidden potentials of dietary natural products via chemical proteomics: a novel avenue for druggable target discovery in stroke intervention
  • Ms Weizhen (Eva) Li, Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling Unit – Colchicine promotes atherosclerotic plaque stability via the Notch3 dependent modulation of smooth muscle cell phenotype

Thank you to all who attended and congratulations to all the recipients. See you next year!

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