Reproductive & Early Life Health

The NIHR Imperial BRC Reproductive & Early Life Health Theme builds on our existing strengths in obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics and reproductive biology, and allergy, to provide a coherent and integrated approach across the various phases of early life. Our aim is to improve early life health by translating biomedical research into benefits for patients, better patient care, and improvements to the health system, as well as broader economic gain. Our work is divided into four streams:

The pregnancy and early life microbiome
We use a multidisciplinary approach encompassing imaging, genetics, epigenetics, cardiovascular research, and metabonomic biomarker discovery. Ultimately we are seeking to discover the role of the oral, vaginal, endometrial and placental microbiome in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, miscarriage, preterm birth, brain injury, and necrotizing enterocolitis. We have a well-characterised cohort of cases in linked longitudinal pregnancy studies, which forms the Complicated Pregnancy Cohort Study, enabling us to follow babies into childhood and adolescence. This cohort also links in with perinatal psychiatry studies of the effects of anxiety in pregnancy on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, epigenetic changes, and behavior in the offspring.

Immune regulation
Microbiome studies are integrated with studies of maternal, foetal, and neonatal immune function, and their later effects upon responses to respiratory infections, asthma, and allergy in children and adolescents. Our aim is to improve diagnosis of infection in children, and we will assess through our antibiotic stewardship programme how results from new diagnostics impact antibiotic prescribing.

Biomarker discovery
We are seeking biomarkers that can be employed in MRI/NMR assessment of prenatal brain injury. New genetic markers and biomarkers are sought in order to identify children at greatest risk of food allergy, complications of sickle cell disease, and neurodevelopmental disorder. Our cohorts are also contributing to BRC studies on autism spectrum disorders.

Health technology and therapeutics
Our collaborations with the pharmaceutical and medical instruments and devices industries support development of new technologies for diagnosis and management, which arise from our discovery science. The main focus of this work is on complications in twin pregnancy, preterm and dysfunctional term labour, neuroprotective agents in encephalopathic neonatal brain injury, and the management of asthma and allergy. We are seeking to develop new therapies and a personalised approach to management and prevention of asthma and food allergies from birth through childhood.

We collaborate across the BRC and with partners in the NHS and Imperial College London’s departments and centres. Our early phase clinical trials build on a track record in experimental medicine research and we work closely with industry to ensure opportunities for commercialization are taken up.

Key Individuals
  • Professor Phil Bennett
    Professor Phil Bennett
    Theme Lead, Reproductive & Early Life Health
  • Dr Christoph Lees
    Dr Christoph Lees
    Reader in Obstetrics & Fetal Medicine / Consultant in Obstetrics
  • Dr David MacIntyre
    Dr David MacIntyre
    MRC-CDA Fellow & Lecturer in Reproductive Systems Medicine
  • Dr Paul Ramchandani
    Dr Paul Ramchandani
    Reader in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Dr Paul Turner
    Dr Paul Turner
    Clinical Senior Lecturer
  • Dr Sudhin Thayyil
    Dr Sudhin Thayyil
    Clinical Reader in Neonatology
  • Professor Adnan Custovic
    Professor Adnan Custovic
    Clinical Chair in Paediatric Allergy
  • Professor Beate Kampmann
    Professor Beate Kampmann
    Professor of Paediatric Infection & Immunity
  • Professor Denis Azzopardi
    Professor Denis Azzopardi
    Visiting Researcher
  • Professor Lesley Regan
    Professor Lesley Regan
    Clinical Professor
  • Professor Michael Levin
    Professor Michael Levin
    Chair in Paediatrics & International Child Health
  • Professor Simon Kroll
    Professor Simon Kroll
    Professor of Paediatrics and Molecular Infectious Diseases/Consultant
  • Professor Tom Bourne
    Professor Tom Bourne
    Consultant Gynaecologist
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