About two years ago, researchers at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute discovered a gene that might predispose a person to heart disease.

Now, researchers at the cardiovascular genetics centre — the only one in Canada and one of a few in the world — may be on the verge of announcing another 10 or 12 genes, said Barry Stanton, director of development at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation.

Important research like this is not uncommon at the institute. And yesterday, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Telethon — the institute’s biggest fundraiser of the year — raised $5,678,959 for research, surpassing its $5.4-million goal and the $5.1 million raised in 2009.

“Having a great research program allows us to attract the best people in the field and also to retain them,” Stanton said. “It also gives us treatments and drugs years before you might get it if you weren’t involved in research. There are about 117 clinical studies ongoing at the institute, so we’ll get medications, treatments and procedures long before other places.”

In addition to providing care for patients in 56 hospitals in the area and in Nunavut and northern Ontario, the heart institute is a teaching hospital.

“Once you get the research going, then you can apply for grants,” Stanton said. “Usually, they do not provide money for startup operations, which is why it is really important for the community to donate money to us, to help that research get off the ground.”

Ottawa-area resident Denis Richardson is living proof of the importance of heart research.

More than 17 years ago, Richardson, a teacher, was playing badminton with a student when he suffered a massive heart attack. Doctors told him he needed six bypasses. When the bypasses didn’t work, he got a heart transplant.

“Every one of those 6,440 days has been an absolute bonus,” he said.