Preterm birth is major challenge for new Director

Professor Sarah Robertson, newly appointed Director of the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute

Professor Sarah Robertson, newly appointed Director of the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute
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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The newly appointed Director of the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute, Professor Sarah Robertson, says preventing preterm birth will be one of the big challenges to be tackled by the internationally renowned research institute over the coming years.

The University of Adelaide has appointed Professor Robertson, a world leader in reproductive science, to head the Robinson Institute from 1 October 2013. She will succeed Professor Rob Norman, who is stepping down after five years as the Institute's inaugural Director.

The Robinson Institute is known for its world-class research into pregnancy and child health.

"Professor Robertson has already established her reputation as an eminent international researcher. She is an exceptional leader and communicator and I know that she will build on the great strengths of the Robinson Institute in her new role as Director," says the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Mike Brooks.

"As a University of Adelaide graduate, and throughout her research career, Professor Robertson has demonstrated a sense of empathy and determination in her work that truly sets her apart. Her commitment to using her research to improve the health outcomes of mothers and babies is unwavering."

Professor Robertson's research focus has been the immunology of pregnancy from the time of conception to birth, and its impact on the health of babies and children.

Professor Robertson says: "It's a great honour and very exciting to become the Director of the Robinson Institute. I'm looking forward to building on the solid foundations laid during five years of outstanding work by Rob Norman and his team.

"Our research programs are strong and we are ready to take on the difficult issues that impact so many families in Australia and around the world. I am determined that we can make major inroads into some of the big, 'wicked' problems facing reproductive and inter-generational health. In particular, being born too soon brings with it a range of health consequences for the child that are carried forward into later life.

"Our preclinical studies have helped us to better understand the various factors involved in preterm birth, and I believe we are well placed to begin the journey towards ultimately preventing this common problem, which affects almost one in 10 pregnancies," she says.

Professor Robertson has authored and co-authored 125 peer-reviewed scientific journal papers and reviews. She holds patents in various countries around the world for reproductive technologies, and has collaborated with industry partners to successfully develop a new treatment for miscarriage, which is now on the international market.

She has won several awards, including the 2013 Senior Investigator Award of the European Society for Reproductive Immunology, serves on the Academy of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Reproductive Immunology from 2008-2013.

Her work is funded by the NHMRC, the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To watch a video of Professor Robertson discussing her work and the future of the Robinson Institute, visit the University of Adelaide's YouTube channel.


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