As part of its global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Heart Association is committing $2.5 million to research efforts to better understand the virus and its interaction with the body’s cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems.

Specifically, the association will be offering fast-tracked research grants for short-term projects that can turn around results within nine to 12 months to better understand the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and clinical management of COVID-19 as it relates to heart and brain health. There also will be additional funding made available to the association’s new Health Technologies & Innovation Strategically Focused Research Centers to develop rapid technology solutions to aid in dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic.

COVID-19, like most in the coronavirus family, is primarily a disease of the respiratory system. However, a number of reports from other countries, as well as in the U.S., have indicated that people with high blood pressure or who have heart disease or survived a stroke may be more vulnerable to its effects, with mortality rates two to three times higher than in the general population.

Through the COVID-19 and Its Cardiovascular Impact Rapid Response Grant initiative, the association will fund one national coordinating center along with at least 10 project grants of $100,000 each. Due to the critical need, the application, review and award processes for the grants will be expedited with applications due by April 6, awardees being announced in early May and projects underway by June.

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