Announcement - Preterm Birth Initiative

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund Board of Directors has approved support for five interdisciplinary research teams to examine the biological complexities of preterm birth.  The Preterm Birth Initiative provides $600,000 over a four-year period.
Surprisingly, little is known about the biological mechanisms that occur during birth.  Even less is known about what causes preterm birth.  Defined as babies born before 37 weeks, preterm birth occurs in nearly 13 percent of all U.S births, with African-Americans and Hispanics having an even higher rate.
Preterm Birth is a major public health problem. Many preterm births lead to long-term health problems and developmental difficulties.  There are also the sociological issues of families going bankrupt and marriages dissolving.
Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s ultimate goal is to help develop preventive strategies by enabling interdisciplinary teams to collaborate in learning more about preterm birth.  To also encourage researchers to collaborate, BWF has partnered with the March of Dimes, who also fund preterm birth research, to establish a biannual meeting.
“Biological research is done in small steps,” said BWF President John Burris.  “It is our hope that by funding creative, innovative research, new therapies will be developed.”
The following recipients of the inaugural Preterm Birth Initiative are listed by the lead researcher and project title:
Kjersti M. Aagaard-Tillery, M.D., Ph.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
Contributions of maternal-fetal-mitochondrial genome and microbiome interactions to preterm birth

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

Mala S. Mahendroo, Ph.D.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center-Dallas
Dynamic architecture of cervical collagen by SHG endoscopy

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
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is a independent private foundation dedicated to advancing biomedical science through research and education.

Media contact:  Russ Campbell at 919/991-5119 or