Research at the University of Alberta has led to the creation of a drug that can prevent heart failure.

The drug has completed two phases of clinical trials that tested its effects on patients, and will face another phase of trials before it's expected to be on the market within the next three to five years. 

University of Alberta heart specialist Gavin Oudit and his research team have studied close to 100 patients experiencing acute and chronic heart failure over the past 20 years.

They discovered a molecule — angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) —​ that can normalize the pathways in the heart that are responsible for an attack.

That discovery led to the development of a new drug —​ recombinant human ACE2 —​ manufactured by Apeiron Biologics and later bought by GlaxoSmithKline.

University of Alberta helps create new heart drug1:34

"We're particularly excited about this recent finding because we're able to show patients with heart failure that this drug really works in their bloodstream," said Oudit.

"We hope it will translate into reducing hospitalization, making people live better lives, better quality of lives, and also to prolong survival and having patients live longer."

'My brother and I are still alive and the only reason is because the work these guys do.' - Dale Roberts, heart attack survivor

The drug has given hope to Dale Roberts. The 61-year-old suffered a heart attack 11 years ago, and he has since taken part in Oudit's research. About once a year he gets an examination and lets them take blood.

"He told me it was important and he told me what he was doing. You don't argue with someone who saved your life," said Roberts.

ACE2

A slideshow of Gavin Oudit's research shows the benefits of ACE2. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Roberts says the majority of the previous generation of his family had heart problems and many died as a result.

"My brother and I are still alive and the only reason is because the work these guys do," Roberts said.

"The thought of my niece and nephew having the ability 20 years ago to not have to worry about a heart condition is phenomenal. We should all be dancing in the streets about that."

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca