Basic and Translational Cardiovascular Research Training Program

Why study Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the USA and worldwide with ischemic heart disease, stroke, and heart failure being responsible for >30% of all deaths. CVD or cardiovascular dysfunction also contributes to marked exacerbation of a number of major non-CVD diseases including cancer, renal failure, neurodegenerative disease, and the clinical complications of diabetes. Taken together, CVD and CVD-related diseases account for >80% of all deaths globally. Thus, highly innovative and high impact CVD research is not only timely, it’s imperative for human health.

Research advances, including many developed here at UVA, have led to the identification of powerful new therapies for reducing cholesterol levels and for treating high blood pressure or hypertension. However, unfortunately this has only modestly reduced CVD and CVD-related deaths. Indeed, CVD and CVD-related deaths are expected to markedly increase in prevalence in the next decade due to global Westernization and the associated obesity epidemic which accelerates the progression of CVD resulting in much earlier onset of late-stage clinical events including heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure. In addition, there is now compelling evidence that many of the exciting new anti-cancer drugs while highly effective in treating cancer, they greatly exacerbate CVD progression such that many cancer survivors are more likely to die of CVD rather than to reoccurrence of their cancer. As such there is an urgent need for training biomedical scientists to study CVD mechanisms and to develop more effective therapies to treat or prevent it, as well as alternative drugs for treating other non-CVD diseases that do not have the unfortunate side effect of exacerbating CVD development.

Cardiovascular Research Training at UVa

Our Basic and Translational Cardiovascular Research Training Program (CVTP) provides broad interdisciplinary training in studies of basic cardiovascular biology and disease as well other diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases where cardiovascular dysfunction plays a critical role. Trainees get exposure to nearly all major scientific disciplines including cell and molecular biology, immunology, biomedical engineering and medical imaging, biophysics, structural biology, bioinformatics, data sciences, systems analyses, neuroscience, biochemistry, pharmacology, and genetics/omics.

Our CVTP is widely regarded as one of the best in the world as evidenced by:

1) Our having one of the largest National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 Training Grants which is now in its 43rd year of continuous funding; and

2) Many of our former trainees now hold independent research and leadership positions in academia, the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology companies, and government research scientist-administrative positions.

3) Even more importantly, our mentors and former trainees have made seminal contributions to our understanding of the biology of the cardiovascular system and mechanisms underlying CVDs as well as identification of more effective ways to treat or prevent them.

Areas of training and what to expect

Our faculty members and their trainees are using state-of-the-art experimental and computational approaches to address some of the most important problems in medical science. We particularly pride ourselves on providing our trainees experience in translating research findings from bench to bedside through courses, seminars, workshops, and internships in industry. Our areas of emphasis include studies of basic cardiovascular function including a major focus on studies of vascular smooth muscle, endothelial cells, and leukocytes, as well as cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, stroke, aneurysms, and heart failure. Training can be obtained with any of our >50 outstanding well-funded mentors who are in many departments and PhD granting programs. We also encourage co-mentor relationships and team-based research to expand the depth and breadth of your research training. Our current group of approved NIH funded mentors is listed under the "Mentors tab" above.

A major and continuing focus of our studies is to develop novel drugs, devices, diagnostic methods, and therapeutic approaches to advance treatment of cardiovascular and cardiovascular-related diseases.

We invite you to join us!

Gary K. Owens, PhD.

Brant Isakson, PhD.
Associate Director,
Curriculum and Workshops

Shayn Peirce-Cottler, PhD.
Associate Director,
Scientific Programs and Student Advising