I am
Q&A with Professor Levon Khachigian
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Q&A with Professor Levon Khachigian

Developing a new medicine for inflammatory cardiovascular disease

Professor Levon Khachigian received his PhD from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1993. After completing further training in vascular pathobiology (the study of blood vessel disease) at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, he returned to UNSW’s Centre for Vascular Research in 1996 and started his own group.

Professor Khachigian heads the Vascular Biology and Translational Research Laboratory within the School of Medical Sciences, UNSW Faculty of Medicine & Health.

In 2020, Professor Khachigian received a Vanguard Grant to develop a new medicine for inflammatory cardiovascular disease.

What are you currently researching?

I am currently researching how inflammation plays a role in cardiovascular disease and developing new ways to target this complex process.

Coronary heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease that occurs when arteries supplying blood to the heart are narrowed and clogged by a build-up of plaque. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol and cellular materials. Plaques can become unstable causing a blood clot which triggers a heart attack.
Inflammation is thought to play a key role in the development of coronary heart disease, by contributing to virtually all stages of atherosclerosis, including plaque formation and its instability. Several recent large clinical trials provide strong evidence that cardiovascular disease is a treatable inflammatory condition. Current anti-inflammatory drugs have their limitations.

Our project will investigate whether a new experimental medicine can treat the inflammation involved in cardiovascular disease. We also want to understand exactly how this medicine can protect the heart and blood vessels. We are hoping this knowledge can also be used to treat different types of cardiovascular disease.

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia?

People who have had a heart attack are at higher risk of having another one. New targeted approaches are needed to reduce the chance of cardiac events and improve quality of life.  If we can find new medicines for inflammatory cardiovascular disease that are safe and effective, this may reduce suffering and improve the heart health of Australians and millions around the world.

What motivated you to do your research?

I am motivated by the need for new and effective treatments for cardiovascular disease, which remains a major cause of illness and death in Australia. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for around one in four deaths.

Medical research can make a real difference to our lives; think of medical applications of penicillin, spray-on skin to treat burns, Cochlear implants, and vaccines to prevent cervical cancer. These are all impactful Australian inventions.

It’s very motivating to think that our research could make a real difference to the lives of thousands of Australians.

What role has Heart Foundation funding had in your career journey?

Heart Foundation funding through this Vanguard Grant will allow us to test promising new ideas, which could lead to larger scale studies in the future. This a new "home-grown" anti-inflammatory medicine.  This medicine has the potential to fill current gaps in treatment and improve the heart health of Australians.

I have had a long involvement with the Heart Foundation which started when I was still a University student in the 1980s. I was awarded a Heart Foundation Vacation Scholarship and spent my holidays working with Professor David Wilcken in his cardiovascular research laboratory at Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

It is a genuine privilege to receive funding from the Heart Foundation, Australia’s largest non-government funder of heart-related research. This grant gives researchers like me (and our teams) the opportunity to transform innovative "out of the box" ideas into reality. I deeply appreciate the generosity of Heart Foundation donors for recognising the importance of cardiovascular disease research.  This will help us to find new treatments to help people to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

You might also be interested in

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

Stay connected with your research alumni community. ...

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

FACILITATING INTERNATIONAL CLINICAL TRIALS ...

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Explore our research award recipients and projects...

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Resources to help manage your grant, scholarship or fellowship....

Research Alumni

Research Alumni

Research Alumni

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program brings together current and previously funded researchers to create a community of the best and brightest in heart-related research....

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW ...

Research connect newsletter

Research connect newsletter

Research connect newsletter

The Research Connect Newsletter provides monthly updates on the Heart Foundation Research Program....

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

Queensland Cardiovascular Research Network

QCVRN provides a framework to strengthen cardiovascular research in Queensland...

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

The fundraising race where you set the pace. Run, jog or walk MyMarathon at your own pace during October....

Research Directory

Research Directory

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

How your waist measurement contributes to your heart health...

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

A multidisciplinary panel of experts discuss the practical application of absolute CVD risk assessment through Heart Health Checks....

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Join the fight against heart disease....

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

Should population-based CVD risk assessment models make way for individualised risk prediction techniques?...

Your heart is your most important tool

Your heart is your most important tool

Your heart is your most important tool

Men’s Health Week is the perfect time to think about your heart....

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Explore our research award recipients and projects...

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

Kim shares the emotional and physical upheaval experienced on her journey to diagnosis and recovery....

Heart medicines – Frequently asked questions

Heart medicines – Frequently asked questions

Heart medicines – Frequently asked questions

Find answers below to frequently asked questions about heart medicines. ...

Paprika chicken with pumpkin and spinach salad

Paprika chicken with pumpkin and spinach salad

32 minutes
Serves 4

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Lower your risk of heart disease

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Lower your risk of heart disease

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Lower your risk of heart disease

Support and resources to help you stay healthy and reduce risk of heart disease. ...

Moroccan chickpea tagine

Moroccan chickpea tagine

25-40 minutes
Serves 4

Q&A with Dr James Nadel

Q&A with Dr James Nadel

Q&A with Dr James Nadel

The role of inflammation in the development, identification and treatment of unstable blood vessel plaque...

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Explore our guide for driving and heart attack recovery. ...

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Find heart healthy Italian recipes....

Our corporate partners

Our corporate partners

Our corporate partners

We value the support of all of our corporate partners....

Physical activity resources for patients and consumers

Physical activity resources for patients and consumers

Physical activity information for professionals...

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Resources to help support your council region to be healthy, connected and safe....

How to volunteer with us

How to volunteer with us

How to volunteer with us

Join our volunteers and make a difference to the heart health of Australians....

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Not all dairy products are equal. Discover different types of dairy foods and their impact on heart health....

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

WEBINAR | Heart Health Checks: the critical role of the practice nurse

This webinar discusses the role of practice nurses in conducting heart health checks...

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

This cardiac services directory presents information on cardiac rehab programs offered across Australia....

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Get the right balance of healthy fats in your diet ...

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

With immediate help a cardiac arrest can be survived. Learn how to save a life....

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

The game is “hide and seek”. You play it without even realising. The shock is that when you play this game, you could be placing your heart health at risk....

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

40-50 minutes
Serves 6

Automated Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD or AICD)

Automated Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD or AICD)

This is a device inserted into your chest to return abnormal heart rhythms to normal using electrical impulses. ...