iMAP: The vision of a world free from heart attacks and stroke

In the past few months, LINQ has been supporting Ziad Mallat, Professor of Cardiology at the University of Cambridge, his team, and the global consortium he has assembled, in the planning and preparation of the iMAP proposal. The group of world-leading scientists are set out to make atherosclerosis a disease of the past.

iMAP is one of four finalists shortlisted for the Big Beat Challenge, a global competition organized by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). At stake is up to £30 million in funding 'for the world's greatest minds to tackle the world's biggest killers.'

The iMAP project aims to create fundamental new knowledge about the link between the immune defence system and atherosclerosis. This will transform the understanding of – and ability to treat – atherosclerosis. Ultimately, protection from heart attacks could be achievable through a simple vaccine.

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of the vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. The disease is caused by the build-up of abnormal material called plaques – collections of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances circulating in the blood. 

Sometimes, pieces of plaque break open, causing clot formation and complete blockage. If this occurs in the arteries that supply the heart, it can cause a heart attack. If they develop in the arteries that supply the brain, it causes a stroke.

Bringing together world-leading researchers from different disciplines 

iMAP is a large international research initiative that brings together world-leading scientists from different disciplines – medicine, biology, immunology, genetics, mathematics, and vaccine development. Together they will harness the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to create the world's first 3D map of the plaques in the arteries. Their work will generate an unprecedented amount of new knowledge about atherosclerosis and the link between the disease and the immune defence system.

The iMAP team's overarching goal is to enable the development of novel preventive methods, including vaccines, and transform the way patients and individuals at risk of atherosclerosis are treated.

LINQ has led the proposal management process from the beginning, steadily manoeuvring the iMAP team through the prolonged proposal phase and making sure that the team is in the best position to secure the BHF’s funding. The deadline for submitting the complete research proposal was pushed back 12 months until June this year due to the COVID19 pandemic.

We have worked closely with the coordinator to design project management structures for this large-scale project, liaised with all partner institutions to set up the project budget, and ensured that the proposal is aligned with BHF’s requirements.

LINQ also facilitated the scientific writing process by working closely with iMAP’s Coordinator, Prof Ziad Mallat, all work package leaders, and key scientists from each partner institution. We organized regular teleconferences for each work package and proofread and aligned the scientific sections of the final proposal.

Communication and Patient and Public Engagement support 

LINQ has played a critical role in strategizing and executing iMAP’s internal and external communication during the proposal phase. We have supported the development of iMAP’s visual identity and, based on this strategy document, managed the production of the iMAP's public website, from idea to implementation. ¨

Further, LINQ has supported iMAP's Patient and Public Engagement and Involvement (PPE/I) co-leads, Dr Amanda Stranks and Dr Eric Jensen, in developing content tailored for a lay audience. We have also supported the development of iMAP's dissemination and exploitation strategy, ensuring that it is closely aligned with the PPE/I strategy. 

We are proud and honoured to contribute to the ambitious and innovative iMAP team's important work, paving the way for transformative treatments and cures of atherosclerosis. If iMAP receives funding, we stand ready to support the consortium with implementing the project and managing the large-scale project during its initial runtime of seven years.