£1.9m to make heart models to test drug safety

30 Oct 2018 09:00:00.000

A mathematical biologist at the University of Nottingham has received funding of over £1.9m from Wellcome to develop mathematical models to test whether new pharmaceutical drugs will have side-effects on the heart.  

Dr Gary Mirams, currently a Wellcome & Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow in the Centre for Mathematical Medicine & Biology in the School of Mathematical Sciences, has spent much of his academic career working on simulations of cardiovascular biology – creating mathematical models of the heart and software packages to run simulations that allow pharmaceutical companies to test the safety of new drugs on the heart. His research has helped change the way new drugs are tested and made a significant reduction in the number of animal-based cardiac safety experiments. 

Dr Mirams said: “Our work to date has proved the usefulness of cardiac simulations in assessing drug safety for the heart. It has also made good progress in improving the reliability of models for this application. But simply making predictions is not good enough for use in safety-critical situations: developing models reproducibly, tracking the derivation of their choice of equations and parameter sets from data, and quantifying our uncertainty in their predictions is also crucial. My Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship will advance this research agenda for cardiac electrophysiology models in drug safety studies.” 

Click here for full story

Tackling the most important questions in science 

Wellcome’s Senior Research Fellowships support independent researchers who want to tackle the most important questions in science and who are leaders in their field. Dr Mirams’ research aims to increase our understanding of the electrophysiology of the heart, pushing the boundaries in mathematical modelling and its biological applications. 

The heartbeat is co-ordinated by proteins that bind together in cell membranes and allow electrically-charged ions to pass through them – structures known as ion channels. When new pharmaceutical drug compounds are developed, they can interfere with the heart’s rhythm because they bind to and block ion channels. This unwanted side effect – heart arrhythmia - can be fatal. 

Dr Mirams looks at why and how certain drugs cause these problems and aims to create an accurate picture of safety – screening out pro-arrhythmic risk - for each new drug before it is given to patients. To do this his team uses mathematical models for electrical activity of heart cells to integrate data from safety tests and predict overall risk.  

Dr Mirams said: “We are designing and testing new experimental approaches to get more information for building our models more accurately and in less time. The aim is to make better predictions from easier-to-perform experiments that can be used routinely in early pharmaceutical testing.” 

Dr Mirams will be collaborating with colleagues in the USA, France, the Netherlands, Australia and Switzerland. He will also be working closely with fellow academics in the Centre for Mathematical Medicine and Biology and Chris Denning, Professor of Stem Cell Biology in the School of Medicine. 

Simulations developed by Dr Mirams are now being used in-house by two leading pharmaceutical companies. A public web-based interface to the simulations has more than 250 registered users including 9 of the 10 largest global pharmaceutical companies.  

Dr Mirams’ work is supported by the University’s Research Priority Area ‘Data modelling and Uncertainty’. 

— Ends —

Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Globelynx fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at University Park campus. For further information please contact a member of the Communications team on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk or see the Globelynx website for how to register for this service.

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter

Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the 2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


Story credits

More information is available from Dr Gary Mirams, in the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Nottingham, on +44 (0) 115 7486067, gary.mirams@nottingham.ac.uk
 Author Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

Keeping an eye on very active Schrödinger's cats

Published Date
Friday 12th October 2018

Solving the world's hardest unsolved maths problems

Published Date
Friday 20th March 2015

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798
email: pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk