MUHC launches $50-million fundraising campaign to fix broken hearts

The McGill University Health Centre is launching a fundraising effort Tuesday aimed at bringing the latest technology, cutting-edge equipment and brightest medical minds in cardiology to Montreal.

With the Fix Broken Hearts campaign, the MUHC Foundation is looking to raise $50 million, $21 million of which has already been committed. That includes an $18-million donation by the Courtois Foundation, announced Tuesday — the biggest single donation in the foundation’s history.

While health care in Quebec is publicly funded, Dr. Nadia Giannetti, the chief of cardiology, said money raised through the foundation is essential for the MUHC to carry out the kind of high-level medical research and innovative therapies that eventually become the gold standard in cardiac care. And its patients can benefit from them long before the government pays for them.

“Thanks to the Courtois Foundation, we were able to recruit the world leader in cardiac MRI and we were able to purchase a dedicated cardiac MRI machine,” Giannetti said.

The acquisition of the machine, which should arrive in a matter of weeks, will mean less invasive diagnostic tests for sometimes fragile patients. The imaging also can be done without the radiation produced by a traditional CT scan.

The rest of the money will help fund a 10-year research project known as the “Signature Study,” which will seek to understand all the factors that contribute to heart disease and cardiac problems, including ones that are not currently understood.

The study will combine medical imaging from the new MRI machine with other data gathered from a cohort of patients who will be followed for a decade. This will include the analysis of their microbiome, genetic profile and biomarkers using artificial intelligence to puzzle out previously undetected patterns.

“Twenty per cent of people who come in here with heart attacks have no traditional risk factors” like smoking or diabetes, Giannetti said. “This research project will help us better understand why some of our patients are landing on our doorstep.”

It could also open up new frontiers in personalized medicine, she added.

The remainder of the funds collected from the Fix Broken Hearts campaign will be used to purchase new equipment for the MUHC’s cath lab, which is where catheters are inserted into patients’ hearts to remove blockages, insert stents or diagnose issues, as well as its electrophysiology lab, which finds and treats ailments like heart arrhythmias.

Julie Quenneville, the president of the MUHC Foundation, said donations help provide emerging treatments and modern equipment six to 10 years before the government funds it.

“The reason we are launching a $50-million campaign is because we know we can do so much more,” she said.

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Marc Saab

Marc is Founder and Managing Director of BML Technology. A biomedical engineer with 20 years’ experience in product development, commercialization and executive management in Medical Device, Digital Health and Consumer Wearable markets.