Overview

In November of 2014, the March of Dimes joined with Washington University in St. Louis to launch the third prematurity research center aimed exclusively at finding the unknown causes of preterm birth. This web site announces the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis and demonstrates the commitment and enthusiasm of accomplished directors, investigators, and faculty members as they come together in this transdisciplinary effort to solve the mysteries of preterm birth.

The Washington University in St. Louis research team includes over 30 faculty-level investigators, trainees, and staff and is led by its program directors, George Macones, M.D., MCSE, Alan Schwartz M.D., PhD., and Sarah England, PhD. Three key research themes are being pursued via transdisciplinary interactions that will generate new research hypotheses and techniques to prevent preterm birth.

Program Directors

George Macones, M.D., M.S.C.E. (Program Director) is the Mitchell and Elaine Yanow Professor and Chair of OB/GYN at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Macones completed his M.D. at Jefferson Medical College, followed by residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Pennsylvania Hospital. During his fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, he also completed a Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Following fellowship, Dr. Macon’s was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania for 11 years, spending his last 6 years as Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Director of Obstetrics. Dr. Macones is an internationally recognized expert in perinatal clinical and translational research, and has held several research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is currently Co-Director of a Specialized Centers of Research grant from the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the NIH and is principal investigator of a training grant on Reproductive Epidemiology and the Washington University Women’s Reproductive Health Research training grant. He has over 300 peer-reviewed publications related to clinical and translational research in obstetrics. His research interests include general obstetrical issues (labor induction, vaginal birth after cesarean) and the prediction and prevention of preterm birth. He has served on numerous national committees, including the Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Committee on Reproductive Drugs and on numerous study sections for NIH. He has worked closely with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, authoring practice bulletins on fetal monitoring in labor and the prevention of preterm birth, and has served as Chair of the Committee on Obstetric Practice. He has served as the Director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and currently serves on its Board of Directors. Dr. Macones was recently named Deputy Editor for Obstetrics for the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Alan L. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D. (Associate Program Director) is the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Pediatrician-in-Chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Following graduation from Case Western Reserve University, he received research fellowship training in Helsinki, Finland, and Auckland, New Zealand (with Sir Professor G.C. Liggins) prior to his residency at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. After fellowship training in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Boston Children’s, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. In 1986, Dr. Schwartz was recruited to Washington University School of Medicine as Alumni-Endowed Professor of Pediatrics, where he began the Lucille P. Markey Special Emphasis Pathway in Human Pathobiology. In 1995, Dr. Schwartz assumed his current position, where he directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-designated Child Health Research Center at Washington University School of Medicine as well as two NIH-funded pediatric physician-scientist training programs. Dr. Schwartz’ research program has been continuously supported by the NIH for over 32 years and focuses on the biology of cellular receptors and mechanisms of protein targeting and degradation. He has published over 250 articles and has received numerous honors including the E. Mead Johnson Award. He is a member of many societies and serves on numerous boards. Dr. Schwartz is a member of the Institute of Medicine at the U.S. National Academy of Science.

Sarah England, Ph.D. (Associate Program Director and Theme 3 Leader) is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University. She is a graduate of Carleton College and obtained her doctorate in Physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She completed her post-doctoral training at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. In 1997, Dr. England moved to the University of Iowa as an Assistant Professor in the Carver College of Medicine in the Departments of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, where she began studying the molecular mechanisms underlying uterine function during pregnancy. Dr. England was active in multiple educational initiatives at the University of Iowa including directing the Iowa Biosciences Advantage program, a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded initiative that serves to increase the number of underrepresented minority undergraduates pursuing doctorate degrees in the biomedical sciences. She also served as co-investigator of the Minority Health International Research Training grant, which funds students to study health disparities in developing countries. She was a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow from 2005-06, during which she worked in the office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on policies related to maternal child health issues, women’s health, the healthcare workforce, and health disparities. She joined the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in July 2011. The NIH, the American Heart Association, and other federal agencies have funded her work. Dr. England has authored many research and review articles and has reviewed for multiple journals in both basic science and clinical fields. Dr. England has served on review committees for multiple funding agencies including the NIH, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Theme Leaders

Lihong V. Wang, Ph.D. (Theme 1 Leader) earned his Ph.D. at Rice University, Houston, Texas under the tutelage of Robert Curl, Richard Smalley, and Frank Tittel. He currently holds the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professorship of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. His book entitled “Biomedical Optics: Principles and Imaging”, one of the first textbooks in the field, won the 2010 Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award. He also coauthored a book on polarization and edited the first book on photoacoustic tomography. Professor Wang has published 400 peer-reviewed journal articles and delivered 390 keynote, plenary, or invited talks. His Google Scholar h-index and citations have reached 90 and 31,000, respectively. His laboratory was the first to report functional photoacoustic tomography, 3D photoacoustic microscopy, the photoacoustic Doppler effect, photoacoustic reporter gene imaging, microwave-induced thermoacoustic tomography, the universal photoacoustic reconstruction algorithm, frequency-swept ultrasound-modulated optical tomography, time-reversed ultrasonically encoded optical focusing, sonoluminescence tomography, Mueller-matrix optical coherence tomography, optical coherence computed tomography, and oblique- incidence reflectometry. His Monte Carlo model of photon transport in scattering media is used worldwide. He has received 36 research grants as the principal investigator with a cumulative budget of over $44M. Professor Wang is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, The Optical Society (OSA), and The International Society for Optics and Photonics. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Biomedical Optics. He chairs the annual conference on Photons plus Ultrasound and chaired the 2010 Gordon Conference on Lasers in Medicine and Biology and the 2010 OSA Topical Meeting on Biomedical Optics. He was a chartered member on a National Institutes of Health Study Section. Wang serves as the founding chairs of the scientific advisory boards for two companies commercializing photoacoustics.

Methodius Tuuli, M.D., M.P.H. (Theme 1 Leader) earned his B.S. in Medical Sciences and his M.D. in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ghana Medical School. He followed with his M.P.H. at the University of California, Berkeley, and his OB/GYN residency at Emory University in Atlanta and finally his fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr Tuuli is a physician- scientist with a focus on preterm birth, evidence-based labor and delivery, and general obstetric issues. He is board certified in Obstetrics & Gynecology and Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and is also formally trained in Epidemiology. He employs large cohort studies and clinical trials to test specific hypotheses leading to improved understanding and evidence-based management of important obstetric problems. Most recently, he became the Medical Director of Labor and Delivery at Washington University School of Medicine and is a Fellow at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He won the Roy M. Pitkin Outstanding article award in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2013. He also was a co-investigator on a Grant from National Institutes of Health/Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences for the Vaginal Microbiome, Short Cervix and Preterm Birth study.

Alison G. Cahill, M.D., M.S.C.I. (Theme 2 Leader) is an Associate Professor of OB/GYN and Chief of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Cahill completed her M.D. at the University of Connecticut, followed by residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania. While completing her fellowship Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Wash U, Dr. Cahill also completed her Master of Science in Clinical Investigation. A member of the Washington University in St. Louis faculty since 2009, Dr. Cahill has extensive experience and success recruiting and retaining thousands of women for complex clinical studies focused on maternal and fetal outcomes, and the pathology of labor. She is the Primary Investigator on several NIH-funded studies, and is a member of the steering committee and co-chair of the data safety and monitoring committee for an ongoing trial.

Phil Cuculich, M.D. (Theme 2 Leader) is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, at Washington University School of Medicine and a member of the Cardiac Bioelectricity and Arrhythmia Center at Washington University. His main research interest has been in collaboration with Dr. Yoram Rudy (Washington University Biomedical Engineering), utilizing a new noninvasive imaging system (electrocardiographic imaging, ECGI) to create three-dimensional maps of arrhythmias, with a focus on atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. In addition, he has developed the Washington University Sudden Cardiac Arrest Genetic Evaluation platform to better understand the use of genetic testing in the clinical space and promote patient- and family-specific discovery. Through better understanding of basic mechanisms of arrhythmia, the ultimate clinical application of this research is to tailor specific therapies for individual patients based on the unique characteristics of each arrhythmia.

Justin Fay, Ph.D. (Theme 3 Leader) is an Associate Professor of Genetics. Dr. Fay is an expert in population and evolutionary genetic analysis. He has developed both computational models and bioinformatic tools for identifying deleterious and adaptive changes across the genome. He is recognized as a leader in understanding the intersection of adaptation and disease and has used this expertise to investigate evolutionary pressures responsible for the timing of birth in humans today. He has authored 43 publications in the last 15 years and was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in 2007. The Fay lab is in the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology in Washington University's School of Medicine and is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Erik Herzog, Ph.D. (Theme 3 Leader) is a Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Herzog completed his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Syracuse University, and his postdoctoral training in Neuroscience at the University of Virginia. A member of the Washington University faculty since 2000, Dr. Herzog has extensive experience studying circadian rhythms in mammals, including the effect of the circadian clock on birth timing. He is the primary investigator on several NIH-funded studies, and uses molecular, cellular, and system-level techniques in his research. Additionally, Dr. Herzog participates in a variety of education and mentoring activities, and is consistently acknowledged for his ability to engage and train the next generation of scientists.

Emily Jungheim, M.D., M.S.C.I. (Theme 3 Leader) is an Assistant Professor of OB/GYN within the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Jungheim completed her M.D. at Loyola University, followed by residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University. She completed her fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology, followed by her Master of Science in Clinical Investigation at Washington University in St. Louis. As an NIH-supported K12 recipient with the Women’s Reproductive Health Research Scholar Program, Dr. Jungheim has completed clinical and translational projects investigating reproductive outcomes. Dr. Jungheim is a member of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences and a scholar at the Institute for Public Health, both at Washington University.

Co-Investigators and Collaborating Faculty—Research Theme 1

Michal Elovitz, M.D. Co-Investigator, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Basic science preterm birth research, including cervical remodeling, vaginal microbiome, microRNA, University of Pennsylvania
George Macones, M.D., M.S.C.E. Co-Investigator, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Perinatal epidemiology, clinical preterm birth research, including bacterial vaginosis, periodontal disease, gene-environment interaction
Mala Mahendroo, Ph.D. Co-Investigator, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cervical biology, including molecular mechanisms of parturition, cervical remodeling, cervical imaging, UT Southwestern
Konstantin Maslov, Ph.D. Co-Investigator, Biomedical Engineering, Photoacoustic tomography, bioinformatics, structural biology
Methodius Tuuli, M.D., M.P.H. Theme Leader, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Perinatal epidemiology, large clinical studies in pregnancy, preterm birth research including the vaginal microbiome
Lihong Wang, Ph.D. Theme Leader, Biomedical Engineering, Advanced imaging technology, including functional photoacoustic tomography, optical resolution photoacoustic microscopy, ultrasound modulated optical tomography
Jun Zou, Ph.D. Co-Investigator, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Micromachining, microfabrication of optical imaging systems, nanotechnology, Texas A&M University

Co-Investigators and Collaborating Faculty—Research Theme 2

Dana Abendschein, Ph.D. Co-Investigator, Medicine – Cardiology, Cardiology, experimentation in animal models
Alison G. Cahill, M.D. Theme Leader, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Perinatal epidemiologist, complex clinical studies in pregnancy
Phillip Cuculich, M.D. Theme Leader, Medicine – Cardiology, Cardiac electrophysiology, electrocardiographic imaging
Robert McKinstry, M.D. Co-Investigator, Radiology, Magnetic resonance imagining, bioengineering oversight of imaging for humans and animals
Arye Nehorai, Ph.D. Consultant, Bioengineering, Electrical activity of the uterus, development of analytic algorithms for complex multidimentional
Yoram Rudy, Ph.D. Consultant, Bioengineering, Developed and validated ECGI, extensive experience in conducting and over-seeing complex bioengineering studies
Jennifer Silva, M.D. Co-Investigator, Pediatrics – Cardiology, Pediatric cardiology, arrhythmia in children, pediatric electrophysiology
Michael Talcott, Ph.D. Co-Investigator, Comparative Medicine, Maintenance, care, and experimentation in large animals; extensive experience working with pregnant sheep
Yong Wang, Ph.D. Co-Investigator, OB/GYN, Electrocardiographic imaging, electromyometrial imaging
Pamela Woodard, M.D. Co-Investigator, Radiology, Advanced imaging, including magnetic resonance imaging, development of novel sequences

Co-Investigators and Collaborating Faculty—Research Theme 3

Leah Rae Donohue, Ph.D. Consultant, Genetic Resources, Jackson Laboratory, Genetic mouse models, genetic basis for gestational timing
Sarah K. England, Ph.D. Theme leader, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Uterine excitability, role of ion channels in reproductive outcomes
Jeff Gill, Ph.D., M.B.A. Co-Investigator, Political Science and Division of Biostatistics, Methodology and statistics, epidemiology
William Grobman, M.D. Consultant, Northwestern University, Expertise on the impact of sleep
Justin Fay, Ph.D. Theme leader, Genetics, Evolutionary genetics, Genetic basis of preterm birth
Ying-hui Fu, Ph.D. Consultant, UCSF, Circadian biology, channelopathies, human and mouse genetics
Erik Herzog, Ph.D. Theme leader, Biology, Circadian rhythms and biological timing
Emily Jungheim, M.D., M.S.C.I. Theme leader, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clinical and epidemiological expertise in in vitro fertilization, reproductive outcomes, and the impact of preconceptional lifestyle on fertility and pregnancy outcomes
Kelle Moley, M.D. Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive physiology, Clinical expertise in in vitro fertilization, Director of the WIHSC tissue/data repository
Louis Ptacek, M.D., Ph.D. Consultant, HHMI and UCSF, Circadian biology, Channelopathies, Human and mouse genetics
Till Roenneberg, Ph.D. Consultant, LMU, Munich, Germany, Circadian biology, Human chronotype and health

Training and Development

Brian Hackett, M.D. Program Director of the Neonatal-perinatal medicine training program, Director of the Department of Pediatrics Office of Faculty Development, Associate Head of the Training and Development Core
D. Michael Nelson, M.D., Ph.D. Senior faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Head of the Training and Development Core

Biostatistics Core

William Shannon, Ph.D., M.B.A. Professor of Biostatistics in Medicine, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, Director, Department of Medicine Biostatistics Consulting Center, Head of Biostatistics Core
Robert Culverhouse, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Medicine, Mathematician and Epidemiologist for Biostatistics Core

Administrative Core

Jessica Chubiz, M.S. OB/GYN  Program Manager of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
Please contact her at chubizj@wudosis.wustl.edu for more information about the research and activities at the center.

Internal Advisory Committee

Mark Anastasio, Ph.D. Professor and Chair, Department of Electrical Engineering
Bradley Evanoff, M.D., M.P.H. Professor of Internal Medicine; Principal Investigator, Clinical and Translational Sciences Award at Washington University, Chief of the Division of General Medical Sciences
David Holtzman, M.D. Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology
Jean Schaffer, M.D. Professor of Internal Medicine, Director, Diabetic Cardiovascular Disease Center
Lila Solnica-Krezel, Ph.D. Professor and Chair, Department of Developmental Biology
Holden Thorpe, Ph.D. Provost, Washington University in St Louis
Skip Virgin, M.D., Ph.D. Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology and Immunology

External Advisory Committee

Patrick Catalano, M.D. Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Case Western University
Steven Jacques, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Oregon Health & Science University
Richard Martin, M.D. Professor, Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Carole Mendelson, Ph.D. Professor, Departments of Biochemistry and Obstetrics and Gynecology, UT Southwestern Medical Center
David Ransohoff, M.D. Professor, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill