Developing novel therapeutic strategies to reduce spontaneous pre-term birth

Project Details

Pre-term birth is the leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality globally and is considered the most important determinant of poor outcomes for the baby, both in terms of survival and long-term quality of life. The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million babies are born pre-term each year, accounting for 1.1 million infant deaths. Despite extensive research into potential therapeutic interventions, the overall rates of pre-term birth aren’t decreasing. Novel approaches to stop or delay pre-term birth are urgently needed.

Even with increased surveillance and tailored treatment for those at high risk, there is relatively little that can be done to mitigate pre-term birth, both in terms of preventing women from going into pre-term labour but also delaying birth for women in established pre-term labour.

For women who are in pre-term labour, management is based on optimising neonatal outcomes. Treatment involves administering medicine to supress pre-term birth, known as tocolytics. However, the inability of current tocolytics to sufficiently prevent pre-term birth and improve neonatal outcomes may be because they are targeting the symptom, uterine contractions, rather than the underlying cause.

There is a dire need for novel therapeutic strategies to prevent pre-term birth. Further understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of the various causes of inflammation in pre-term birth may enable greater identification of those at risk and more targeted treatment that will improve outcomes.


A/Professor Natalie Hannan – Group leader and Principle Research Fellow

Dr Natalie BinderPost-doctoral scientist

Ms Sally BeardResearch Assistant


Mercy Perinatal

Novel therapeutic development for the prevention of preterm birth

Ferring Pharmaceuticals Research Grant

Nanomedicine targeted delivery of therapeutics to prevent preterm birth

University of Melbourne Felix Meyer Scholarship in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Higher research degree scholarship

Research Publications

Stock, O., Gordon, L., Kapoor, J., Walker, S. P., Whitehead, C., Kaitu'u-Lino, T. J., Pell, G., Hannan, N. J. & Tong, S. (2015) Chorioamnionitis Occurring in Women With Preterm Rupture of the Fetal Membranes Is Associated With a Dynamic Increase in mRNAs Coding Cytokines in the Maternal Circulation. Reprod Sci, 22(7), 852-9.

Research Group

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine, Women's Health, Infectious Diseases and Immunity

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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