Phoebe runs for national heart charity set up by her grandfather in Leeds 50 years ago

More than 50 years ago David Watson set up National Heart Research UK in Leeds and his family still supports it. Catherine Scott reports.

The granddaughter of the founder of national charity Heart Research UK is taking on the 2019 London Marathon to raise funds for the charity he started over 50 years ago.

David Watson, an eminent cardiovascular surgeon, founded Heart Research UK in 1967 in Leeds following the death of a young patient with the aim of making heart surgery safer. Since then, Heart Research UK has funded over £25m of research in to the prevention, treatment and cure of Heart Disease.

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Mr Watson, who still maintains a keen interest in Heart Research UK, also developed a tissue valve in 1976 which became the prototype for many of the valves used in surgery today.

And now, granddaughter Phoebe Watson, 22, is set to undertake the iconic race this weekend.

“I went to the marathon last year, and the atmosphere was so amazing, it inspired me to take part. With my grandfather’s connection to Heart Research UK, I thought it would be a brilliant chance to run for the charity,” says Phoebe, who is studying Business Management at Oxford Brookes University, is proud to be carrying on the family legacy.

“My grandfather thinks it’s wonderful, he’s very proud. Every time I’ve spoken to him about it he’s been really pleased, he’s always asking about how my training is going.

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“It’s really important to him, and I think it’s really great that his family and something that he is so passionate about are combining.”

Barbara Harpham, Chief Executive of Heart Research UK said: “Heart Research UK has come such a long way since its foundation in 1967, from funding six of the first eight successful UK heart transplants to holding the first unique medical masterclasses to enable clinicians to learn from world-leading surgeons, we’ve always tried to be on the cutting edge of developments.

“It’s a fitting tribute that Mr Watson’s granddaughter is taking up the family mantle and helping to fund Heart Research UK’s pioneering medical research.

“The London Marathon is one of the biggest dates in the charity calendar, and every year Heart Research UK have an inspiring team that raise a substantial amount of money through their effort and dedication. We wish Phoebe, and all of our runners, all the best for the marathon. All of us, including her grandfather, will be cheering her on.”

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In the last 10 years, Heart Research UK has funded over £10.2m in medical research in hospitals and universities across the UK, as well as £2.2m on innovative community-based lifestyle projects to improve the heart health of the nation.

To learn more about Heart Research UK, visit, and you can support Phoebe’s marathon appeal at

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