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Pregnancy Research

Staff and Student News 2023

In March 2023, we celebrated the PRC’s 30th birthday, which was an opportunity to reflect with much satisfaction on the many and varied contributions to research knowledge, patient care, health advocacy and staff and student career progression that our history thus far has involved. Speakers at the PRC celebratory 30th birthday conference were drawn from past and present staff, students and collaborators and from many centre’s around the world. 

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Madeline (Millie) Baker

Congratulations to Millie for winning the People's Choice award with her poster entitled "Uric acid or PERT: Which blood test better predicts preeclampsia?", at the recent Women's 2023 Student Symposium.

Assoc Prof Bill Kalionis

A special congratulations to Bill, for being awarded an Associate Professorship with the University of Melbourne.

Gayathry Krishnamurthy

Congratulations to Gayathry (a PhD student with our UTas group of collaborators) who has won the Zuspan Prize at the recent ISSHP World Congress held in India 24-27 September, 2023. 
We are so proud of Gayathry, who as first author, in receiving this 2023 Zuspan award, makes it the fourth time work associated with the PRC has won this award  .... Alan Wilton in 1990, Jo Said in 2006, Matt Johnson in 2012 and now Gayathry.

The Zuspan Award is given to the investigators adjudged to have undertaken and then presented at an ISSHP Congress the most outstanding basic science work in relation to the study of hypertension in pregnancy. The award is named after Frederick P. Zuspan, a distinguished founding member of the ISSHP (International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy) and a past president (1982-1984) of the Society.

Sarah Noonan

Congratulations to Sarah for winning the SOMANZ Best Scientific Poster Award 2023 for the poster entitled 'An evaluation of the sFlt-1/PIGF ratio in preeclampsia and gestational diabetes mellitus’ presented at the recent SOMANZ 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting held in Adelaide South Australia 6-8 October, 2023


Staff and Student News 2022

Another year of COVID and its variants again cast a shadow over PRC activities, limiting both laboratory-based and clinical trial research endeavours directly and indirectly in many ways.

Notwithstanding the difficulties faced, the PRC nevertheless again performed well in 2022, thanks to the committed efforts of all staff, students and collaborators.

Pleasingly, in 2022, the PRC long-term publication rate was maintained, with over 30 manuscripts published or in press.

As well, with the cautious return of face-to-face and hybrid conferences, it was pleasing that PRC research students and young clinical fellows were able to present their work at a range of local, national and international meetings.

The sFlt-1/PlGF preeclampsia ratio (PERT) test remained an important focus of PRC work in 2022. Auditing the RWH experience of the test’s clinical utility in various settings is helping progress an application for the test to be placed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). If this application is successful, the test will become widely available to pregnant women throughout Australia and serve as a lasting legacy to the PRC’s pioneering work on this test. Thanks are due to the continuing efforts of Gabriel Jones, Jo Bruhn, Lionel Taiwa, Adrienne White, Moira Stewart, Sue Duggan and Clare Grant for their efforts in creating and maintaining the PRC PERT database, which is serving as a fruitful platform for various audit projects and data source for the MBS application.

The PRC network of external collaborations and commercial links provided an important pathway to help maintain productivity despite COVID’s limitations on hospital-based research. Particularly noteworthy in this regard was research undertaken with Helena Parkington, Harry Coleman and Katrina Colafella from Monash University on human uterine and cardiovascular function in pregnancy, with Wojtek Chrzanowski in Sydney on exosomes, with Ben Mol and Rui Wang at Monash University on preterm birth epidemiology, with Daniel Heath from Biomedical Engineering at the University of Melbourne on stem cell scaffolding, with Jon Hyett in Sydney on preeclampsia prevention, with Phil Melton and Eric Moses at the Menzies Institute on preeclampsia and subsequent later life cardiovascular disease, and with Roche Diagnostics on the REALITY study (with a big thank you to Moira Stewart in particular for her efforts in meeting the demands of this particular project).

Again this year, an excellent level of academic supervision was provided to all PRC research students. In this regard, particular acknowledgement is due to Bill Kalionis, Harry Georgiou, Claire Grant, Tom Cade and Maria Kokkinos. Their efforts in support of PRC research students was reflected in the uniformly outstanding results obtained by the students they mentored.

In 2022, the PRC welcomed Padma Murthi as a REDI-Bridge Fellow, Hirofumi Kashiwagi as a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow, Emily Callander as a Health Economist and Gabriel Jones as a Visiting Clinical Fellow. These additions to the PRC team brought exciting new dimensions to the research activities of the PRC.

A highlight during 2022 was the video production “A Day in the Life of the Pregnancy Research Centre” which was not only enjoyable in the making but also served as an excellent summary of current PRC endeavours. Credit for producing this record of PRC activities goes especially to Jo Bruhn and Lionel Taiwa, as well as all the staff brave enough to put their acting talents to the test!

This video is available here

Pregnancy Research

Staff and Student News 2021

Prof Shaun Brennecke

Congratulations to Shaun and lead investigator Assoc Prof Sant-Ryan Pasricha from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute on being awarded a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant for their project on the use of IV iron in Bangladesh to treat anaemia in pregnancy.

Congratulations also to Shaun who was awarded an NHMRC Ideas grant with his colleagues from the University of Tasmania, lead investigator Dr Phillip Melton and long-term collaborator Prof Eric Moses, along with Prof John Blangero from the USA’s South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute, for their project “Epigenetic Biomarker Discovery for Cardiovascular Disease Risk Stratification of Women Following Preeclampsia “

Dr Penny Sheehan, Prof Shaun Brennecke

Congratulations to Penny and Shaun who along with their Monash University colleagues lead investigator Prof Helena Parkington and Dr Harry Coleman were awarded an NHMRC grant for their project “Mechanisms underlying the generation of spontaneous contractions in human uterine muscle: Potential therapeutic target for dysfunctional labour”

Dr Clare Whitehead

Congratulations to Clare and colleagues Dr Stefan Kane, Prof Mark Umstad, Dr Paul Champion de Crespigny and Prof Shaun Brennecke on being awarded a Ramsay Foundation grant for their project on screening pregnancies for placental dysfunction.

Dr Hannah Yong

Congratulations to Hannah who was awarded the University of Melbourne's 2021 Arthur Nyulasy Prize for her thesis entitled "Characterisation of maternal pre-eclampsia susceptibility genes"

Pregnancy Research

Staff and Student News 2020

Prof Shaun Brennecke

Congratulations to Shaun who was appointed Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia (General Division) within the Australian Honours system for distinguished service to medical education and research in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology, and to professional societies.

Congratulations to Shaun who was selected in The Educator’s Higher Education Hot List for 2020 in recognition of his “outstanding contributions not just to academia, but also the community and the country.”

Dr Daniel Heath

Congratulations to our long-term collaborator Daniel on being awarded an ARC Future Fellowship. He works with Dr Bill Kalionis in the stem cell space developing novel biomaterials that facilitate invitro cellular functions such adhesion, proliferation and differentiation.

Dr Gabriel Jones

Congratulations to Gabriel who has been awarded a prestigious Oxford Clarendon Scholarship to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen’s College and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Gabriel’s thesis topic is “Artificial intelligence, deep learning and fetal cardiotocograph analysis”.

Dr Stefan Kane

Congratulations to Stefan and lead investigator Prof Della Forster who were awarded an NHMRC grant for their project "Exploring the impact of caseload midwifery on preterm birth among vulnerable and disadvantaged women: a multi-centre randomised controlled trial ".

Dr Ramin Khanabdali

Congratulations to Ramin who was awarded his Australian Residency as part of the Distinguished Global Talent Program run by the Australia Government to attract highly skilled professionals to work and live permanently in Australia.

Dr Gina Kusuma

Congratulations to Gina who was awarded the 2020 Arthur Nyulasy Prize for her thesis “The role of decidual mesenchymal stem cells in response to oxidative stress in normotensive and pre-eclamptic pregnancies.” Her thesis generated 7 first author publications, an invited lecture at an international conference, and won a number of prestigious awards.

Emeritus Professor Roger Pepperell

Congratulations to Roger who was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday Australian Honours List for his many clinical, academic and educational contributions to Women’s Health during an illustrious professional career.

Dr Clare Whitehead

Congratulations to Clare who along with her collaborators, Prof Benjamin Theirry, Dr Majid Ebrahimi Warkiani and Dr Deirdre Zander-Fox were awarded an NHMRC grant for their project "Genome-wide non-invasive prenatal testing based on circulating fetal trophoblastic cells".

Congratulations to Clare who along with her collaborator Prof Edward Johnstone were awarded a grant from the The University of Manchester-University of Melbourne Research Fund.

Dr Clare Whitehead, Prof Shaun Brennecke

Congratulations to Clare & Shaun who along with Prof Sue Walker were awarded a 2020 O&G Innovation Grant.


Staff and Student News 2019

Dr Tom Cade

Congratulations to Tom who has been awarded the University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2018 Arthur Nyulasy Prize for his DMedSc thesis regarding diagnostic criteria for GDM which was deemed to have made the most significant contribution in the speciality of clinical research.

Ms Vicky Chen

Congratulations Vicky on being awarded an RWH Research Week Undergraduate Presentation Award for her presentation entitled "Outpatient versus Inpatient catheter balloon cervical ripening - a randomised trial"

Ms Jen Dean

Congratulations to Jen whose abstract has been accepted for an oral presentation at the upcoming RANZCOG ASM conference, 13-16 October, 2019, Melbourne, Australia

Dr Bill Kalionis 

Congratulations to Bill who along with his collaborators Dr Daniel Heath, Prof Andrea O'Connor, Dr Kilian Kelly have been awarded funding from the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund for their project entitled "Advanced materials for the manufacturing and delivery of highly potent mesenchymal stem cells"

Congratulations to Bill who was awarded a University of Melbourne Trevor B Kilvington Bequest grant.

Congratulations to Bill along with his co-authors who have been awarded the Nanoscale Horizons 2018 Outstanding Paper award

Ms Shiva Mahdizade

Congratulations to Shiva whose abstract has been accepted for an oral presentation at the upcoming RANZCOG ASM conference, 13-16 October, 2019, Melbourne, Australia

Ms Chelsea Perera

Congratulations to Chelsea who was awarded the University of Melbourne's Melbourne Medical School The Richard Larkins Prize for the Top Honours Student, Class of 2018 as well as the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Honours Award 2018.

Ms Prithi Rajiv

Congratulations to Prithi whose abstract has been accepted for an poster presentation at the upcoming RANZCOG ASM conference, 13-16 October, 2019, Melbourne, Australia

Ms Joan Christie Wijaya

Congratulations to Joan who was awarded an Australia Awards in Indonesia to to attend the International Society for Cell and Gene Therapy (ISCT) Conference, May 29- June 1, 2019, Melbourne Australia


Staff and Student News 2018

Prof Shaun Brennecke

Invited recently to deliver the prestigious Priscila Kincaid-Smith Lecture on 14 July 2018 at this year’s Society of Obstetric Medicine of Australia and New Zealand (SOMANZ) Annual Scientific Meeting entitled: Preeclampsia - Answers to Questions and Questions to Answer.

Prof Shaun Brennecke and Dr Bill Kalionis 

Congratulations to Shaun and Bill who were awarded a University of Melbourne MMS Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Equipment Grant

Dr Tom Cade

Congratulations to Tom who was awarded a University of Melbourne Early Career Researcher Fellowship

Dr Bill Kalionis 

Congratulations to Bill who along with his collaborators W Chrzanowski, P Hansbro, S Yunsun Kim, A Chrzanowska, G King, S Fraser from the University of Sydney have been awarded the Big Idea 2018 for their project entitled " Aerosolised EVs as next generation therapeutics"

Congratulations to Bill who was awarded a University of Melbourne Trevor B Kilvington Bequest grant

Mr Ramin Khanabdali

Congratulations to Ramin who has been offered an Oral presentation at the 2018 Australasian Extracellular Vesicles Conference at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Sydney, Australia, 14-16th November, 2018 for his abstract entitled “Extracellular Vesicle Profile of Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cells Derived from Early-Term and Late/Post-Term Human Placenta:  A Proxy to Understand Placental Ageing”.

And further congratulations for Ramin who won an Travel Award to attend the 2018 Australasian Extracellular Vesicles Conference at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Sydney, Australia, 14-16th November, 2018

Congratulations also to Ramin for winning the Elsevier Award for Early Career Researchers, to attend the International Federation of Placental Associations (IFPA) 21-24 September 2018, Tokyo, Japan

Ms Aida Shakouri

Congratulations to Aida who was awarded a travel award from Australian Society of Stem Cell Research (ASSCR) to attend the prestigious International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) 2018 conference.

Staff and Student News 2017

Jessica Bahn

Congratulations to Jess our 2016 Honours Student who has been awarded a University of Melbourne “The Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology RWH Honours Award 2016”. The recipient of this award is nominated by the Head of Department at the student’s project site and is awarded in recognition of their performance during their Honours Year. Well done Jess!

Prof Shaun Brennecke

Congratulations to Shaun for his successfully being awarded  two NHMRC grants. One with the University of Sydney's Prof Jon Hyatt entitled: "Can esomeprazole improve outcomes in women at high risk of pre-eclampsia? A Phase II placebo-controlled randomised, multi-centre clinical trial" and one with Monash University's Prof Ben Mol entitled "Prediction and prevention of spontaneous preterm birth: an Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis comprising of prognostic and therapeutic data" .

Once again congratulations to Shaun who was also awarded a grant from the Trevor B Kilvington Bequest, University of Melbourne.

Erin Clarke

Congratulations to Erin who was awarded a first class honours for her BMedSci (Hons)

Dr Bill Kalionis

Congratulations to Bill who was also awarded a grant from the Trevor B Kilvington Bequest, University of Melbourne.

Dr Stefan Kane

Congratulations to Stefan for the successful completion of his RANZCOG sub-specialty CMFM qualification in which shows his expertise in the field of maternal fetal medicine.

Ramin Khanabdali

Congratulations to Ramin who has been awarded an EMBL Advanced Training Centre Corporate Partnership Programme Fellowship to attend the EMBO Conference: Advances in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, 23-26 May 2017 in Germany.

Dr Gina Kusuma

Congratulations to Gina who has been awarded a Dr Hubert Sydney Jacobs Memorial Scholarship from the University of Melbourne.

Aida Shakouri

Our congratulations to Aida who was awarded in 2017:

  • a ASBTE Conference Travel Award, 18-20 April 2017, Canberra.
  • a position as event reporter at the EMBO Conference: Advances in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, 23-26 May 2017 in Germany.
  • a travel grant from the Particulate Fluids Processing Centre (PFPC), ARC Special Research Centre, University of Melbourne

Staff and Student News 2016

Shaun Brennecke

Congratulations to Shaun and all the team who participated in the PROGNOSIS trial, the results were published 7 January 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine, "Predictive Value of the sFlt-1:PlGF Ratio in Women with Suspected Preeclampsia"

Tom Cade

Congratulations to Tom who was the receipient of a Luke Proposch Perinatal Research Scholarship, 2017 from RANZCOG to support his project "New criteria for the diagnosis of gestational diabetes: A maternal and neonatal health outcome and economic analysis in a large tertiary level maternity centre"

Ricardo Palma-Dias

Congratulations to Ricardo and his team including the PRC's Penny Sheehan, Karen Reidy and Sue Veljanovski who participated in the Maternal Fetal Medicine Foundation funded RCT  trial, the results were published 18 March 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine, "A Randomized Trial of a Cervical Pessary to Prevent Preterm Singleton Birth"

Hannah Yong

Congratulations Hannah, who won a place at, and a travel award, to attend the prestigious International summit for young scientists, Global Young Scientists Summit@one-north (GYSS) to be held in Singapore in January 2016. The GYSS is a world-wide gathering of young researchers who will interact with internationally eminent science and technology leaders in Singapore. The Summit will discuss the latest advances in science & technology, and how research and innovation can be harnessed to address major global challenges. It is a multi-disciplinary Summit, covering topics ranging from chemistry, physics and medicine to mathematics, computer science and engineering. Speakers invited to the GYSS are globally recognised scientific leaders, among them are recipients of the Fields Medal, a Millennium Technology Prize, a Nobel Prize, and the Turing Awards.

In 2016 Hannh successfully passed her PhD, her thesis was entitled"Characterisation of maternal pre-eclampsia susceptibility genes"

Congratulations to Hannah for being the recipient of the 2017 A*STAR International Postdoctural Fellow to University of Cambridge 

Staff and Student News 2015

Batla Al-Sowayan & Gina Kusuma

Congratulations to two of our students Gina Kusuma and Batla Al-Sowayan, both successfully passed their PhD’s and graduated as Dr’s from Melbourne University, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology / Royal Women’s Hospital, Pregnancy Research Centre in the last week, Gina with her thesis entitled “The Role of Decidual Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Response To Oxidative Stress in Normotensive and Pre-Eclamptic Pregnancies” and Batla with her thesis entitle “Characterisation of Primary and Transfected Placental Mesenchymal Stem Cell Migration”.

Fabrico Da Silva Costa & Shaun Brennecke

Congratulations to Fabricio and Shaun who have both been elected to the Editorial Board of the Revista Brasileira De Ginecologia E Obstetricia. Fabricio is now also an Associated Editor for theRevista Brasileira De Ginecologia E Obstetricia. 

Dr Stefan Kane
Congratulations to Stefan who was awarded an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship for 2015-2017. Stefan also received an Australian Society for Ultrasound in Medicine Research Grant and was successful in receiving a RANZCOG Fellows Clinical Research Scholarship, both for 2015

Stefan was interviewed by the Herald Sun's Health reporter for her article 'The eyes have it' on the 6th August 2015. 

Dr Gina Kusuma
Congratulations to Gina who has been awarded a NSFCA Travel Award for the upcoming conference, Stem Cells in the Hunter Valley 8-10 November, 2015

Di Maxwell & Megan Poth

Congratulations to our Clinical Research Midwives Di & Megan, who along with the clinical trial PI Dr Andrea Khaw have successfully recruited 100 participants to the FACT trial.

The Folic Acid Clinical Trial is an international study awarded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research to evaluate whether a high dose of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy is beneficial as a new prevention strategy for managing women at risk of developing preeclampsia.

Ms Stephanie Reilly
Congratulations to Steph, our Scholarly Selective student, who has received a Highly Commended Poster Award at the 6th Annual Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Victorian Student Symposium

Miss Hannah Yong

Congratulations to Hannah who received not 1 but 2 awards at the recent IFPA 2015 conference.
This conference is an annual meeting for the International Federation of Placenta Associations  (IFPA) to discuss the latest and emerging topics in placental research.

In recognition of the excellence of the abstract that Hannah presented she won the prestigious Y. W. Loke New Investigator travel award, which is given to young/new investigators for research excellence, and supported her travel to attend and present an oral at the meeting.

Hannah also won (in a tie) the ACEA Travel Award for her oral presentation entitled “Altered activin receptor ACVR2A expression in pre-eclampsia contributes to abnormal placentation”. Her oral presentation was shown to have great scientific merit and integration of xCELLigence RTCA technology as a research tool.