NIHR Imperial BRC Cardiovascular researcher wins prestigious national cardiology award

Dr Fu Siong Ng and Dr Arunashis Sau holding the award certificate
Dr Fu Siong Ng and Dr Arunashis Sau holding the award certificate

Imperial College researcher Dr Arunashis Sau has won the 2023 Young Investigator Award, a prestigious national prize which recognises ‘excellence among young researchers intending to pursue a career in cardiovascular clinical medicine or research.’

Dr Sau is a Cardiology Registrar at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Clinical Research Fellow at Imperial College London – and is also part of the NIHR Imperial BRC Cardiovascular Theme. He was awarded the prize by the British Cardiovascular Society, British Heart Foundation, British Atherosclerosis Society and the British Society of Cardiovascular Research, following a UK-wide competition of research fellows undertaking research in the cardiovascular sciences.

In his prize-winning presentation, Dr Sau hypothesised that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to identify novel markers of risk from heart tracing (electrocardiograms or ECGs, a simple test used to check heart rhythm and electrical activity) that can go beyond human interpretation. He used AI to identify different subgroups (phenogroups) of people and found that these could predict mortality in six large cohorts from around the world (a total of 1.8 million subjects). Dr Sau went on to explore the biological underpinnings of these predictions through an exploration of the Human Phenome and Genome, including identifying a potentially novel disease-related gene.

Dr Sau, who is also a PhD candidate at Imperial College London, said: “I am delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious award. I’m immensely grateful to my supervisors, collaborators, patients and volunteers, and the British Heart Foundation for generously supporting this important work. I really believe AI-enhanced ECG is the future of cardiovascular care and am looking forward to building on this work to revolutionise how we care for patients.”

Dr Sau is supervised by Dr Fu Siong Ng, consultant cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Trust, as well as a clinical senior lecturer in cardiac electrophysiology at Imperial College London and part of the NIHR Imperial BRC’s Cardiovascular Theme. Dr Ng said: “In this work, we looked inside the ‘black box’ of the AI model to better understand how the AI is making predictions on long-term outcomes and mortality.

“Our novel approach provided some important insights, and we learned that the AI model is looking at novel features of the ECG that are associated with future cardiovascular disease and also specific genes. We are very excited by the potential of AI to transform the care of patients and our next step is now to test this technology in a clinical trial in patients. We are grateful for the support that we have received from Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.”