Athena award for research that makes findings in national quality registers

The Athena Prize, the healthcare system's largest prize for clinical research, is awarded this year to Stefan James, professor of cardiology and senior physician at Uppsala University Hospital and research leader at Uppsala Clinical Research Center (UCR) at Uppsala University.

Stefan James, Uppsala University Hospital, wins the Athena Prize 2015. Photographer Pax Engström Nyström.
Stefan James, Uppsala University Hospital, wins the Athena Prize 2015. Photographer Pax Engström Nyström.

The prize, which consists of a research grant of SEK 150,000, will be awarded on Thursday, December 3, in connection with the Swedish Medical Society’s National Medical Meeting. The award is presented by Anders Lönnberg, the government’s national coordinator for life science.

The Athena Prize jury’s justification for selecting the winner reads

“A groundbreaking concept that utilizes the national quality registers and paves the way for interesting collaborations between academia, healthcare and life science companies. An important effort to strengthen the competitiveness of Swedish clinical research and to fill the many knowledge gaps in healthcare.”

A completely new model for study design

Together with his colleagues, Stefan James has developed a model for a completely new type of study design that enables large and randomized clinical studies at a very low cost. The model uses the information available in the national quality registers. Patients are randomized at the same time as their data are recorded in the registry. The first time the model was used was in the so-called Taste study, which started in 2010 and included 7,244 people from all hospitals in Sweden until mid-2012 to investigate how a new type of medical device affected the risk of recurrence of a heart attack. The study is the largest prospective, randomized study to date to investigate the effect of a medical device on heart attack patients and the results have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals.

– Conducting clinical trials is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Only a small proportion of clinical decisions in healthcare are currently evidence-based in the sense that they are based on well-designed clinical studies. We realized that in order to do large clinical studies that really matter to patients, we need to find new methods and make studies more efficient, cheaper and include more and more representative patients,” says Stefan James.

A new registry-based randomized clinical trial has recently started at UCR. This study examines a new method of measuring pressure in patients with angina compared to the currently established technique.

About the Athena Prize

The Athena Prize is supported by VINNOVA, the Swedish Research Council, Forte, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, LIF, Sweden Bio, Swedish Medtech and the newspaper Dagens Medicin. The purpose of the prize is to recognize and reward significant achievements in clinical research in Sweden. The jury’s assessment criteria are medical benefit, level of innovation, urgency, scientific quality, societal benefit and collaboration between healthcare, academia and industry.

About the jury

The Athena winner has been selected by an expert jury with broad representation from healthcare, academia and industry. The jury includes: Johanna Adami (Chair), Health Division, VINNOVA, Mats Ulfendahl, Principal Secretary for Medicine and Health, Swedish Research Council, Håkan Billig, Chair of the Medical Society’s Committee for Clinical Research, Bertil Guve, Director of the Center for Technology in Medicine and Health, Royal Institute of Technology, Karin Heeroma, Medical Director, Astra Zeneca, Christina Herder, CEO, Dilaforette, Peter Lönnroth, Deputy Regional Director, Region Västra Götaland, Nina Rehnqvist, Chair of the Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment, Ewa Ställdal, Director General, Forte, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, and Christina Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief, Dagens Medicin.