A Singapore-based cardiologist and researcher has been awarded the $2.5 million Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Cardiovascular Medicine.

Professor Stuart Cook, senior consultant at the Department of Cardiology and Distinguished Clinician Scientist of the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), is known for his work in areas such as human genetics, heart muscle disease and cardiac imaging.

The Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Cardiovascular Medicine was established in September as part of a $3 million gift from the Tanoto Foundation, a philantrophic organisation. It aims to advance research in cardiovascular medicine and will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Singapore Government.

A SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre spokesman said Prof Cook's professorship will focus on research using genetics, biomarkers and advanced imaging, among other techniques. One key area will be studying the effectiveness of novel diagnostic approaches and using them to understand the factors causing heart disease and sudden death in Asian populations. Last year, the British professor led a local project by the NHCS and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School to study genes known to cause heart disease so as to discover better ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating it.

SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre said in a statement: "His work in Singapore is particular relevant as the genetic make-up of Asians differs from other genotypes, indicating that research focusing on the Asian population is needed to better understand and develop treatments that are more suited for them." Prof Cook's research has been published in more than 60 scientific papers carried in journals such as Nature, New England Journal of Medicine and Nature Genetics.

According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases remain the top cause of death globally. They include coronary heart disease (heart attack), hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart failure, which in total claimed about 17.3 million lives in 2008, or 30 per cent of all global deaths. In Singapore, coronary heart diseases were the third leading cause of death and third leading cause of hospitalisation in 2012.

Prof Cook was selected by the Distinguished Professorship Selection Committee, which comprises senior leaders from both Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and SingHealth.