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Data science investment to transform health of people with diabetes

We’ve joined forces with Health Data Research UK and the British Heart Foundation to launch a new initiative – the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst - that will see experts in diabetes and cardiovascular diseases harnessing data science to improve care and save lives for people living with diabetes.

People with diabetes are more at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. We know that living with diabetes and managing its complications can be really hard and that too many people with diabetes die from cardiovascular complications. That's why we're investing in research to improve care and outcomes for people living with diabetes. 

Data science to enable diabetes discoveries

The new Diabetes Data Science Catalyst aims to make huge strides in our understanding of the link between cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It will help researchers understand, access and connect the UK’s unique collection of huge health databases to make discoveries that could improve the care of people with diabetes and save lives.

Diabetes UK has invested £300,000 into the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst over three years. The Catalyst, led by Associate Director Professor Ewan Pearson, Professor of Diabetic Medicine at the University of Dundee, will be embedded in the important work of the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre. The Centre helps carry out data science into the causes, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. It was set up in 2020 with an investment of £10 million from the British Heart Foundation and established by Health Data Research UK.

Professor Pearson, Associate Director of the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst, said: “As a doctor who has had the privilege of caring for patients, as well as conducting and enabling research studies that rely on large-scale patient data, I’m delighted to be leading this new partnership.

“It’s shocking that 590 heart attacks and 770 strokes are caused by diabetes every week in the UK. But this unique collaboration will enhance our knowledge of the links between the diseases, facilitate a deeper understanding of the causes and progression of diabetes as a major cardiovascular risk factor, and, most importantly, drive improvements in patient care to save lives.”

Putting people with diabetes at the heart of data science

People with diabetes will be invited to get involved in the work of the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst to ensure that their views on using data in research and the questions that they would like to see answered about diabetes and cardiovascular disease shape its work. 

Graeme Smith, 47, was diagnosed with a heart attack in 2018 after experiencing pains at a music festival. During his stay in hospital he discovered that he also had type 2 diabetes, which had damaged his cardiovascular system. He said:

“I had no obvious symptoms of type 2 diabetes and the diagnosis came as a shock, especially after a heart attack. I am really pleased to see that researchers are taking this step to better understand the links between heart health and diabetes and I hope that the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst speeds up the search for new treatments.”

Researchers who are interested in getting involved in the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst should contact our research team at research@diabetes.org.uk.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson is Director of Research at Diabetes UK. She said:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Health Data Research UK and the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre to launch the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst.

“The Diabetes Data Science Catalyst has the potential to enable data-driven research, yielding insights that will improve healthcare and move us closer to a future when cardiovascular disease is no longer among the leading causes of death in people with diabetes. 

“By involving people with diabetes in this cutting-edge research, we’re confident that any changes in diabetes care resulting from this initiative will better support the needs of people living day-to-day with this relentless condition.”

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of HDR UK, added: “There are huge opportunities for this partnership to transform research into both diabetes and cardiovascular disease, from unlocking the potential of routinely collected NHS data, to applying cutting-edge analytic methods like artificial intelligence to this important area of health research.

“It’s key that this work underpinned by a secure and trustworthy health data infrastructure, and we look forward to working with the Catalyst group to build and develop this to serve the needs of people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease."

Professor Cathie Sudlow, Director of the BHF DSC, agrees. She said: “I’m thrilled to see the important work of the BHF DSC extend to people with diabetes. By being embedded in the Centre, the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst will build on and inform our ongoing approaches to using large-scale data to improve health, as well as enable the cardiovascular and diabetes research communities to collaborate and answer key cardiometabolic research questions at pace.”

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the BHF, said: “At the BHF, we recognise the tremendous potential of data science as we enter a new age of digital medicine. That’s why we are delighted to be working with Diabetes UK and Health Data Research UK to launch the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst. The BHF and Diabetes UK share a common goal to reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases in patients with diabetes and this new initiative will strengthen our ability to tackle this important problem.”

“By unlocking the power of data, we will be able to better understand how diabetes increases the risk of developing deadly heart and circulatory conditions, and how we can save families from this heartbreak.”

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