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Focus on EAS Innsbruck 2016: Introducing the faculty - Plenary speaker Heribert Schunkert

Tuesday 27 October 2015   (0 Comments)
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A forward-looking scientific Programme to excite, inspire and inform!

The EAS 2016 Scientific Committee has created a programme featuring ground-breaking speakers in their respective fields. EAS 2016 Innsbruck welcomes a distinguished international faculty to share their forward-looking perspectives on the latest developments in basic research and clinical practice in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. You can find details of the Plenary and Workshop sessions now on the Congress website,

Abstract submission is now open. Submit your abstract by January 11, 2016 for the opportunity to present your findings at this prestigious international Congress.

Here, in a series of newsletters, we introduce members of the EAS 2016 Innsbruck faculty.

Plenary session 1, Monday, May 30, 2016: Integrative approach in atherosclerosis

Heribert Schunkert, Germany: GWAS for coronary artery disease

Heribert Schunkert is Professor of Cardiology and Director of the Cardiology Department of the German Heart Center, Munich, Germany. After completing undergraduate training at Staatsexamen, West Germany and Rheinisch-Westfälisch Technische Hochschule, Aachen, Germany, Dr Schunkert undertook a research fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and clinical fellowships in cardiology at Beth Israel Hospital and Universitätsklinikum, Regensburg, and interventional cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was appointed Director of the Cardiology Department of the German Heart Center Munich and full Professor of the Technische Universität München in 2012. His research focuses on the molecular biology and genetics of multifactorial cardiovascular disease, with involvement in the EU-sponsored project Cardiogenics, and the European-American Leducq network CADgenomics to identify the genetic roots of myocardial infarction. Professor Schunkert is a member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Innere Medizin, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kardiologie - Herz- und Kreislaufforschung and the International Society of Hypertension, and is the recipient of awards from the German Society of Cardiology, the German Society of Hypertension, and the German Society of Preventive and Rehabilitative Medicine.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been extensively used to study common complex diseases such as coronary artery disease (CAD). To date, GWAS have identified 153 suggestive CAD loci; however, these variants only explain about 10% of genetic variability in susceptibility to CAD, leaving ∼90% of CAD heritability unexplained. In part this unexplained heritability may be due to possible context-dependent risk variants, which tend to operate only under certain environmental influences, typically over a shorter period and involving later stages of disease development. Such context-dependent risk variants are unlikely to be detected in traditional GWAS analyses.

Systems genetics may offer a complementary approach to uncovering a substantial part of this missing CAD heritability. Such an approach involves the integration of genetic and genomic datasets to build network models of relevant molecular processes, thus offering the possibility of identifying key "drivers" of disease, and ultimately novel diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities. Clinical studies that include intermediate phenotypes, and screening patients over a range of disease phenotypes, are key challenges for this approach. Ultimately, systems genetics may offer the key to resolving the puzzle of unexplained CAD heritability, and the possibility of individually tailored preventive and individual patient care.


Jansen H, Samani NJ, Schunkert H. Mendelian randomization studies in coronary artery disease. Eur Heart J 2014;35:1917-24.

Brænne I, Civelek M, Vilne B, Di Narzo A, Johnson AD, Zhao Y, Reiz B, Codoni V, Webb TR, Foroughi Asl H, Hamby SE, Zeng L, Trégouët DA, Hao K, Topol EJ, Schadt EE, Yang X, Samani NJ, Björkegren JL, Erdmann J, Schunkert H, Lusis AJ; Leducq Consortium CAD Genomics. Prediction of causal candidate genes in coronary artery disease loci. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2015;35:2207-17.

Ghosh S, Vivar J, Nelson CP, Willenborg C, Segrè AV, Mäkinen VP, Nikpay M, Erdmann J, Blankenberg S, O'Donnell C, März W, Laaksonen R, Stewart AF, Epstein SE, Shah SH, Granger CB, Hazen SL, Kathiresan S, Reilly MP, Yang X, Quertermous T, Samani NJ, Schunkert H, Assimes TL, McPherson R. Systems Genetics Analysis of Genome-Wide Association Study reveals novel associations between key biological processes and coronary artery disease. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2015;35:1712-22.

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