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Project information

Causes and Treatment of Preterm Birth

To halve the number of preterm births.

1 in 10 babies are born prematurely - the leading cause of infant death worldwide.

There are roughly 30,000 UK premature births each year. Approximately 50% are a result of treatable infections.

September 2018 - August 2021

Charity information: Genesis Research Trust

Genesis Research Trust logo
  • Need


    In many cases preterm labour occurs because of an abnormality in the structure at the bacterial communities that live in the reproductive tract.
    There is a direct link between bad outcomes for the baby and these bacterial communities. In many cases antibiotic therapy has a detrimental, not a beneficial effect.
    A significant barrier to translating these findings into patient care is the expensive and time consuming complex analysis needed for each case.


    Through a technique we have developed a 3-minute way to check whether pregnant women have an infection and if they could be treated with antibiotics which would delay the birth.
    We have identified the bacterial communities of importance.
    We now need to extend our studies to look in detail at women at higher risk of preterm birth to demonstrate that we can use the same technique to predict bacterial communities and subsequent outcome as effectively.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To research the causes of preterm birth


    » This will be achieved through reproductive medical research carried out at Imperial College, London.

    What success will look like

    Progress in the understanding of why some babies arrive before 37 weeks. Findings will be used to develop preventative medicines to reduce the number of preterm births.

    Aim 2

    To significantly reduce the number of preterm births


    » Following the discovery that a short test could help prevent preterm birth, we are now looking at ways to make the test affordable to be widely used

    What success will look like

    By finding a way to distribute the bacterial test widely enough that is cost effective and reliable. Around half of preterm births are caused by bacteria traceable by this test.

  • Impact


    Our project could halve the number of preterm births. As preterm birth is the leading cause of death in children in the first weeks of life, the project will in turn save the lives of thousand of babies each year.
    Preterm birth is also connected with health issues and learning disabilities. By reducing the number of preterm births, we will also be reducing the number of people going through life with these added complications.


    The main risk with any form of research is that there is no guarantee of a discovery. The benefit of this project however is that the main discovery has already been made and we are now building on that discovery.


    We invite donors to visit the laboratory to meet and chat with the researchers at the heart of the project.
    At each noteworthy stage of the project we will communicate with donors to update them on the progress of the project and any breakthroughs.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £172,500

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £105,000 PhD Researcher The costs of the leading researcher of the project
      £50,000 Consumables To cover research materials needed
      £17,500 Student Fee A part time student to assist the PhD researcher
  • Background


    The project will take place at Imperial College, London


    Around 30,000 babies are born at less than 37 weeks each year in the UK. Our research could halve those figures, benefitting around 15,000 children and their parents each year.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We are the only charity of its kind to lie consistently at the heart of original leading-edge research investigating why and how things can go wrong with conception, pregnancy and birth; delivering real evidence-based results for medical treatments and outcomes of worldwide significance. Led by Professor Robert Winston. we are world-class scientists and doctors, passionate about giving everyone who wants to have children the chance to experience a healthy pregnancy and have a healthy family.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Professor Phil Bennett

    Prof. Bennett is Director, Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Biology and as such oversees all research programmes there, including this.

    Dr David MacIntyre

    Dr MacIntyre is a Senior Lecturer in Reproductive Systems Medicine. He is the lead researcher on this project.