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Contact: Casey Calamusa
Seattle Children's

Innovative research projects aim to prevent preterm birth

Five innovative research projects aiming to prevent premature birth were announced today by the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children's.

The projects are funded through the Preventing Preterm Birth initiative, part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health. The initiative seeks to discover biological mechanisms that lead to preterm birth and develop innovative strategies for prevention, with particular focus on solutions relevant to low- and middle-income countries, where 99% of the world's infant deaths occur.

More than 320 applications were received from 50 countries, with the top five applications awarded grants of up to $2 million to fund their projects for 2-4 years.

"The volume and quality of applications we received are indicative of the widespread impact of preterm birth and the number of excellent researchers who are ready to tackle this global crisis," said Craig Rubens, MD, PhD, executive director of GAPPS. "These projects will greatly increase our knowledge of what causes premature birth, and hopefully catalyze additional resources and commitments to help make every birth a healthy birth."

Of the 15 million babies born too soon every year, more than 1 million die in infancy, making prematurity the second-leading cause of death for children under 5 worldwide. The burden in low- and middle-income countries is even more concerning, where sophisticated medical care is often not available. Throughout the world, many premature infants who survive face lifelong health complications such as asthma, cerebral palsy and developmental delays, making prevention paramount.

"Preterm birth is the leading cause of death for newborns, and the second leading cause of death in children before their fifth birthday, taking the lives of 1 million babies every year, affecting rich and poor countries alike," said Gary Darmstadt, Director of Family Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We urgently need new tools and need to develop new solutions to give every baby a healthy start to life. These new projects are a critical step on the path to preventing preterm birth."

The causes of preterm birth are often unknown and strategies for prevention are limited. The projects funded by the Preventing Preterm Birth initiative will advance discovery of the underlying causes of preterm birth, particularly how infection, inflammation, and immune and hormonal responses disrupt healthy pregnancies. This innovative agenda spans the research spectrum from bench science to field research in low-and middle income countries, all with a focus on translating research to action. The grant recipients include:


More information about the Preventing Preterm Birth initiative can be found at www.gapps.org/healthybirth.

Grand Challenges in Global Health

Grand Challenges in Global Health is a global partnership first launched by the Gates Foundation and others in 2003 that seeks to engage the world's most creative minds to work on scientific and technological breakthroughs for the most pressing global health and development challenges.

Seattle Children's

Consistently ranked as one of the best children's hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children's serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children's hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children's has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children's serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children's Research Institute and Seattle Children's Hospital Foundation. Together they are Seattle Children's, known for setting new standards in superior patient care for more than 100 years. For more information visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.


The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children's, leads a collaborative, global effort to increase awareness and accelerate innovative research and interventions that will improve maternal, newborn and child health outcomes around the world.

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