Scottish professor wins prestigious Danish research award

The International KFJ research award from Copenhagen University Hospital – Rigshospitalet goes to professor John McMurray from the University of Glasgow. The Scottish research heavyweight has been working with Danish heart failure researchers for more than a decade.
Photo: Due to COVID-19 restrictions the recipient of the International KFJ Award, Professor John McMurray, attended the ceremony online from Glasgow, Scotland. Professor Lars Køber (on the left) received the prize on behalf of Professor McMurray.  

For the first time ever, the International KFJ Award is going to a researcher from the British Isles and Scotland. The winner is Professor John McMurray, who is probably Europe's leading researcher in heart failure. For more than 10 years, he has had a good collaboration with researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital – Rigshospitalet, which is the biggest research hospital in Denmark. 

A committee at the Danish hospital selects the winner of the International KFJ Award among all high-ranking researchers who are collaborating with researchers in Denmark. One of Professor John McMurray’s collaboration partners is Professor Lars Køber from the Department of Cardiology at Copenhagen University Hospital - Rigshospitalet. He has nominated John McMurray for the award and he emphasises that the professor from Glasgow is a real research heavyweight, with almost 1,000 peer-reviewed articles behind him and an H-index of 200.

“An H-index of 200 doesn’t come by itself, and he is the most quoted researcher in heart failure. His name is almost synonymous with this year's largest and most pioneering studies on the treatment of chronic heart failure. He has been responsible for testing two of the most successful treatments, both of which significantly lengthen lives for severely sick heart failure patients,” said Professor Lars Køber.

He stressed that John McMurray has made significant contributions to improving our understanding of the epidemiology and pathophysiology behind heart failure. 

After the presentation to Professor John McMurray, the International KFJ Award will join a prestigious collection of awards. The professor has already received a long list of awards and honours. Most recently in 2020, when he received a gold medal from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), which is the most esteemed honour within cardiology for European researchers. John McMurray has also received an OBE - Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of his substantial contributions to research. 

Strong Danish-Scottish collaboration

Cardiologists at Rigshospitalet have been working with John McMurray's research team in Glasgow for more than ten years. The cooperation has been very productive, with up to 150 shared publications, and there is close collaboration on exchanging research fellows to benefit both research institutions.

The collaboration covers both epidemiological studies and clinical trials. According to Lars Køber, the plan now is to expand the collaboration. 

Among other things, the researchers hope to merge the Danish and Scottish patient databases, so that they can compare data from the two countries. They also have plans to conduct a Scottish-Danish heart failure trial in which they will be testing revascularization strategies (PCI or CABG) for patients with ischaemic heart disease. 

Breakthroughs pushed by data

The International KFJ Award should have been presented in 2020, but because of the corona pandemic, Copenhagen University Hospital - Rigshospitalet has had to wait to make the presentation. The restrictions mean that John McMurray cannot be present in Copenhagen, and he will be holding his winner’s lecture online. 

John McMurray is looking forward to using the award to lever even stronger Danish-Scottish collaboration. 

“I'm extremely honoured and delighted to receive this award. It is recognition of the hard work and passion we researchers in Scotland and Denmark have put into improving the treatment and the quality of life for patients with heart failure. The disease is a growing health problem globally,” said Professor John McMurray. 

According to John McMurray, the strength in collaboration with Danish researchers has been that it has been possible to use large datasets to design and implement major studies of new treatments for heart failure. 

"Denmark has led the way in conducting larger, but simpler and inexpensive clinical trials based on data that is routinely collected in the Danish healthcare system. We have the infrastructure in Scotland to do the same. With data from the two countries, we have the potential to carry out larger and better studies,” said Professor John McMurray.

He stressed that the future objective will continue to be to train new physicians and researchers as a natural part of the research collaboration. 

About the KFJ Award

Rigshospitalet’s International KFJ Award is named after Kirsten and Freddy Johansen. Their foundation donates the DKK1.5 million awarded annually.  

The award is presented to an internationally high-ranking researcher. The researcher may not be employed at Rigshospitalet, but he or she should have an existing collaboration with one or more international research communities at the hospital. 

In a globalised world, Rigshospitalet aims at cooperating with the best hospitals and researchers in the world.  The purpose of the award is therefore to strengthen the research community at Rigshospitalet by creating ties to international researchers and international research communities.   

The award was first presented in 2011. 

All senior researchers at Rigshospitalet may recommend a candidate for the award. An evaluation committee assesses recommended candidates.

Previous recipients of the KFJ Award

• 2019: Kári Stefánsson, professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, CEO and founder of deCODE genetics. 

• 2018: Jorma Toppari, professor in physiology at Turku University, Finland. 

• 2017: Tom Eirik Mollnes, senior researcher at Nordland Sykehus in Bodø, Norway, professor in immunology at Oslo and Tromsø universities and professor at the Centre of Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

• 2016: John E. Dick, professor and senior researcher at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada.

• 2015: John C. Burnett, professor and cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA.

• 2014: Mary Relling, pharmacist at the Pharmaceutical Department, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

• 2013: Søren Bentzen, professor in epidemiology and radiotherapy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA

• 2012: Tomas Olsson, professor in neurology at the Center for Molecular Medicine and the Department of Neurology at Karolinska Sjukhuset in Stockholm, Sweden

• 2011: Bruce R. Rosen, professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.

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