Our people - the Women’s Pregnancy Research Centre

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Shaun Brennecke

Professor Shaun Brennecke AO
BA, BMedSci(Hons), MB BS, DPhil(Oxon), FRANZCOG

Shaun is the Director of the Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Head of its Pregnancy Research Centre at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

In 1992, he was appointed the University of Melbourne's inaugural Professor/Director of Perinatal Medicine, based at the Royal Women's Hospital in Carlton, Victoria. In 1999, he took up the University of Melbourne Dunbar Hooper Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Women's Hospital. He is also Head of the Pregnancy Research Centre at the Hospital and an Obstetric Team Leader within the Maternity Care clinical service of the Hospital.

Shaun's clinical and research interests focus on aspects of Maternal Fetal Medicine, especially pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction, preterm labour, placental function, the endocrinology of human pregnancy and parturition, the assessment of fetal welfare, miscarriage and factors influencing perinatal morbidity and mortality. 

Bill Kalionis

Assoc Prof Bill Kalionis
BSc (Hons), PhD

Deputy Head

Bill is the Head of the Stem Cell Laboratory in the Pregnancy Research Centre. He joined the Royal Women’s Hospital in 2000 as a Senior Research Fellow. He is a molecular biologist with a background in Biochemistry and Genetics.

Since 2005, he has led the Stem Cell Laboratory and has focussed on an important stem cell type in the human placenta; the mesenchymal stem cell. 

Bill has supervised PhD, Masters Honours and Advanced Medical/Scholarly Selective students. He has been invited to speak at national and international meetings. He has received peer-reviewed research grants to support stem cell research from the NHMRC, Clive and Vera Ramaciotti, Kathleen Cuningham Foundations, University of Sydney – Utrecht University Partnership Collaboration Award, Trevor Basil Kilvington Bequest and Sydney Research, Big Ideas Award.

Harry Georgiou

Assoc Prof Harry Georgiou
BSc (Hons), PhD

Senior Research Fellow

Harry's PhD research was conducted at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute where he investigated the modification of graft immunogenicity and histocompatibility matching on fetal pancreas transplantation.

His current research focus is the development of biomarkers to improve the detection of preterm labour (the PPeTaL Study) in collaboration with Carmentix, a Singapore based biotechnology company.

Harry is the author of over 80 research publications, proceedings, chapters or reports. He has presented or co-authored over 100 papers at national and international conferences.

Maria Kokkinos

Dr Maria Kokkinos
BSc (Hons), PhD

Research Fellow

Maria, who majored in genetics and microbiology, completed her PhD on the aetiology of uterine leiomyoma's and leiomyosarcomas's. She supports a range of laboratory activities within the Pregnancy Research Centre, supervises Honours, Masters and PhD students in their research studies, and acts as an examiner for Masters and PhD student theses for the University of Melbourne. 

Stefan Kane

Dr Stefan Kane

Research Clinician

Stefan is a RANZCOG-certified subspecialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine who combines his clinical obstetric duties with a passion for clinical research. He is the lead investigator for a local clinical trial, The ROADMAP Study, which used an ultrasound examination of the mother’s eye to assess changes in blood flow to the brain of women with pre-eclampsia. This project formed the basis of his PhD, which was supported of an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship, a RANZCOG Foundation Clinical Research Scholarship, and an Australasian Society for Ultrasound in Medicine grant.

He has been the site co-ordinator for a number of international perinatal clinical trials, and serves on the Council of the SOMANZ, and a member of the steering committees for the Women and Newborn Health network of the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health, and the Interdisciplinary Maternal Perinatal Australasian Collaborative Trials (IMPACT) Network of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Tom Cade
Research Clinician

Tom is an obstetrician at the Royal Women’s Hospital. His current research interests include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. His research career has been supported by a RANZCOG Foundation Luke Proposch Perinatal Research Scholarship and a University of Melbourne Early Career Researcher Fellowship.

Ricardo Palma Dias

Clinical Assoc Prof Ricardo Palma Dias
MD, PhD, FRANZCOG, DDU, Dip US (O&G) Dip Fet Med
Research Clinician

Ricardo is an obstetrician-gynaecologist with a special interest in ultrasound- based prenatal diagnosis and fetal medicine.
He is currently a Clinical Associate Professor in the University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the Director of Ultrasound Services, and a clinical researcher in the Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine Pregnancy Research Centre at the Royal Women's Hospital.
His main areas of interest and research involvement are first trimester screening, the role of MRI in prenatal diagnosis and the ultrasound assessment of complex multiple pregnancies.

Penny Sheehan

Dr Penny Sheehan
MBBS, FRANZCOG, GDip (Epidemiology & Biostatistics)

Research Clinician

Penny is head of the hospital's Preterm Labour clinic and a Lecturer in the University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Dr Sheehan complements her clinical role with an active program of research that specializes in parturition and preterm birth. She has conducted basic research on the possible contribution of progesterone metabolites to parturition as well as other mechanisms related to the progesterone withdrawal theory of labour. 

Mark Umstad

Prof Mark Umstad AM
Research Clinician

Mark is a leading expert in the management of high-risk pregnancies and in particular multiple pregnancies. Mark is active in conducting and supporting research into multiple pregnancy at the Royal Women’s Hospital. Mark is also Patron of Australian Multiple Birth Association and a member of the Advisory Board for the Twin Registry and on the Editorial Advisory Committee on Twin Research.

Julia Unterschieder

Dr Julia Unterscheider
Research Clinician

Julia is a Staff Obstetrician with a subspecialty interest in Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Royal Women’s’ Hospital and Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne.  In 2014, she was awarded her PhD from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland for a thesis entitled ‘Intrauterine Fetal Growth Restriction – New Insights into Prenatal Detection, Definition, Surveillance and Delivery’. In addition to her role in providing high-risk clinical care to patients at the Royal Women’s Hospital, her current research interests include fetal growth restriction, maternal cardiac disease in pregnancy and corticosteroid treatment for prevention of neonatal morbidity and mortality.

Project Officer
Mrs Jo Bruhn

Visiting Clinical Researh Fellow
Dr Hirofumi Kashiwagi

Clinical Research Fellow
Dr Nadine Abu-Ghazaleh
Dr Carin Black
Dr Erin Clarke
Dr Sarah Corker
Dr Lauren Di Salvo
Dr Charlotte Goutallier
Dr Gabriel Jones
Dr Prithi Rajiv
Dr Cassie Siepen
Dr Alice Wookey
Dr Vicki Xu
Dr Jessica Yao

Research Collaborators
Dr Nir Abel, Evogene Ltd
Assoc Prof Wojciech Chrzanowski, University of Sydney
Dr Harry Coleman, Monash University
Ms Mary Deane, Monash University
Ms Ioana Duta, Oxford University
Assist Prof Fabricio Da Silva Costa, Griffith University
Clin Assoc Prof Megan Di Quinzio, Mercy Hospital for Women
Prof Christine East, LaTrobe University
​Dr Daniel Heath, University of Melbourne
Prof Jon Hyett, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Dr Gina Kusuma, Monash University
Dr Phil Melton, Menzies Centre, University of Tasmania
Prof Ben Mol, Monash University
Prof Eric Moses, Menzies Centre, University of Tasmania
Dr Padma Murthi, Monash University
Prof Helena Parkington, Monash University
Assoc Prof Sant-Rayn Pasricha, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Prof Joanne Said, Sunshine Hospital
Dr Rui Wang, Monash University
Dr Hannah Yong, A*STAR Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences

Clinical Research Midwives

Ms Lizzie Leeton
- Audit of the use of a pregnancy biomarker (sFlt-1/PlGF Ratio) in the prediction of preeclampsia
- Pregnancy studies related to: Preeclampsia, Fetal Growth Restriction, Diabetes, and Labour
- The ESPRESSO Trial: A multicentre study of the drug Nexium for the prevention of preeclampsia
- The REALITY Study: A multicenter, prospective, observational study to evaluate the use of the sFlt-1/PlGF ratio in the risk stratification of pregnant women with signs and symptoms of preeclampsia or diagnosed preeclampsia in current clinical practice.

Ms Moira Stewart
- Pregnancy studies related to: Preeclampsia, Fetal Growth Restriction, Diabetes, and Labour
- Audit of the use of a pregnancy biomarker (sFlt-1/PlGF Ratio) in the prediction of preeclampsia
- The ESPRESSO Trial: A multicentre study of the drug Nexium for the prevention of preeclampsia
- The REALITY Study: A multicenter, prospective, observational study to evaluate the use of the sFlt-1/PlGF ratio in the risk stratification of pregnant women with signs and symptoms of preeclampsia or diagnosed preeclampsia in current clinical practice.

Laboratory Research Staff
Ms Claire Grant

Ms Elham Noursadeghi, PhD Scholar
Ms Polin Haghvirdizadeh, PhD Scholar
Ms Shixuan Zheng, PhD Scholar
Ms Millie Baker, Medical Student Project
Ms Charlotte Goutallier, Medical Student Project
Ms Jessica Han, Medical Student Project
Ms Sarah Noonan, Medical Student Project
Ms Summer Woo, Medical Student Project