BWF Provides Planning Grants for New Ways to Study Preterm Birth

16 November 2009

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund recently announced the first recipients of its Preterm Birth Initiative planning grants.  

The planning grants provide $50,000 to develop an interdisciplinary group of researchers with expertise in a wide range of fields to address scientific issues related to preterm birth.  After a year, planning grant awardees may submit an application for a full research grant of $600,000.

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund Preterm Birth Initiative was created to increase the understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying parturition and spontaneous preterm birth.

Despite medical and technological advances, the rate of preterm births in the United States is on the rise. More than 12 percent of births in the U.S. are considered preterm, which is defined by a recent Institute of Medicine publication as birth occurring prior to 37 weeks of gestation. Many health and social problems can be attributed to preterm birth including cerebral palsy, respiratory distress syndrome, chronic lung disease, seizures, learning difficulty, hearing loss, behavioral problems, and others. Preterm birth is currently the leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality in children without congenital anomalies. For a medical problem that has such grave health and social consequences little is known about its causes.

The formation of new connections between reproductive scientists and investigators who are involved in other areas will give preterm birth research a fresh and unique look.

2009 Preterm Birth Planning Grant Recipients are:

Vikki M. Abrahams, Ph.D.
Yale University
Role of placental Nod-like receptors in infection-associated preterm labor

Julie Baker, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Genomic networks that guide trophoblast invasion and disease

Ronald W. Davis, Ph.D.
Stanford University
Unexplained Preterm birth

Michal Elovitz, M.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Targeting novel pathways in cervical remodeling for predicting prematurity: a combined biomarker and genomics approach

Michael Douglas House, M.D.
Tufts Medical Center
Beyond cervical length: development of a patient-specific model of cervical mechanical function in pregnancy 

Mala S. Mahendroo, Ph.D.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center-Dallas
Assessment of cervical ripening by sodium magnetic resonance imaging

Jeffrey C. Murray, M.D.
University of Iowa
Genomic signatures of gene expression and alternative splicing in preterm birth

Indira Mysorekar, Ph.D.
Washington University
Occult infections in the etiology of preterm birth

Ignatia Van den Veyver, M.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
Contributions of maternal-fetal mitochondrial genome and microbiome interactions to preterm birth

Carl P. Weiner, M.D., M.B.A.
University of Kansas
Initiator-effector gene sets regulating myometrial contractility during term and preterm labor