Our research experts
Professor Alex Heazell, Clinical Director of Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre
Alex leads our Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at the University of Manchester, where he is professor of obstetrics. With midwifery colleagues, he established our pioneering Rainbow Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital, which has reduced the stillbirth rate in Greater Manchester by 32% since 2010 (against a much lower national average rate of reduction).
For many years, there was a sense of fatalism about stillbirth; it was just seen as ‘one of those things’, no one asked why. That left us starting from basics, so stillbirth research has a lot of catching up to do in comparison with other areas of medicine and even other pregnancy complications. I feel very fortunate to be able to combine my clinical work, looking after families in a speciality I care deeply about, with research that will hopefully improve outcomes for them. In a way, the taboo around stillbirth is similar to that surrounding cancer 50 years ago - without discussion of signs and symptoms, however small the chances were of developing it, people didn’t come forward early enough to save lives. Lifting that taboo is critical."
Prof Heazell’s main research interest is the placenta problems that can lead to stillbirth and how we can predict them, but he also studies maternal health conditions that can raise stillbirth risk such as diabetes and lupus. We’ve been funding his award-winning research since his PhD on pre-eclampsia in 2008, during which time he’s published more than 120 papers. He led the UK’s recent Stillbirth Priority Setting Partnership, chairs the International Stillbirth Alliance, and is part of the lifesaving MBRRACE consortium working to save mothers’ and babies’ lives.
Professor Andrew Shennan OBE, Head of Tommy's Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic
Andrew is professor of obstetrics at King's College London and runs our premature birth clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital, where he also manages the clinical trials unit in their Women’s Academic Health Centre and oversees the wider NHS Trust’s research and development. In 2018, he was made an OBE (Officer of the Order for the British Empire) for his tireless work in maternity services.
I really enjoy working with my patients; making a difference to them is the reason why we do this. It’s also really satisfying having undergraduate and PhD students, because you’re able to nurture the next generation of researchers who will have an impact on the future population. Helping others to realise their potential is truly worthwhile."
Prof Shennan led the development of our QUIPP app to predict and prevent premature birth, which we use in our clinic and are working to make available across the NHS, and in 2017 he won the 2017 Newton Prize for his life-saving blood pressure monitoring CRADLE device. As well as his expertise in premature birth, his research portfolio includes pregnancy complications related to blood pressure such as pre-eclampsia, and he has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers. He chairs the National Institute for Health Research’s reproductive health and childbirth group, and sits on the academic and research committees of the Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
Professor Arri Coomarasamy, Director of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research
Arri supervises our National Centre for Miscarriage Research, a unique partnership between the University of Birmingham (where he is professor of gynaecology and reproductive medicine), Imperial College London and the University of Warwick. He also directs the Centre’s network of specialist research clinics, where couples who have experienced recurrent miscarriage can take part in trials to access cutting-edge tests and treatments aiming to prevent more losses.
Miscarriage is a common but deeply personal and often isolating experience for many couples, and we are just beginning to provide clear evidence on the widescale devastation it causes. When I see people who’ve had a miscarriage, they generally have two questions: why did it happen, and how can we stop it happening again? Unfortunately, doctors don’t always know the answers – but with our world class team here determined to make a difference, we aim to understand the causes of miscarriage and find ways to prevent it. Tommy's investment in our work is the best thing that has happened to miscarriage research; it will change many lives."
Prof Coomarasamy works to influence miscarriage care guidelines so more people can benefit from the results of his team’s ground-breaking research, such as our PROMISE and PRISM trials using progesterone to prevent recurrent miscarriage in women with early pregnancy bleeding, and our MIFEMISO project to improve medical management of missed miscarriage. He’s published more than 190 research articles and 5 medical textbooks, including an award-winning book on assisted conception treatment, and serves on national and international committees aiming to make pregnancy safer for all.
Professor Basky Thilaganathan, Clinical Director of Tommy's National Centre for Maternity Improvement
Basky heads up our newest research centre, working to tackle inequalities in maternity care and make the UK the safest place in the world to give birth. His expertise includes twin pregnancies, placenta function, and pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. He has experience developing and implementing pioneering tools to personalise care and improve pregnancy outcomes, making him ideally placed to lead the centre’s work on this.
The digital tool we are developing will use the latest technology and insights, and incorporate best practice care guidelines, to help improve and standardise care across the NHS. Through its intelligent risk assessment process and personalisation of care recommendations for each woman, this tool could help prevent up to 600 stillbirths and 12,000 premature births in the UK every year. By ending current inequalities in care where some women receive too much – and often unnecessary – care while others get too little, more babies’ lives will be saved."
Prof Thilaganathan is Director of Fetal Medicine and consultant obstetrician at St George’s University Hospital in London, where he leads the training programme for other clinicians to become specialists in his field. In 2007, he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which he represents on the UK National Screening Committee. He has authored more than 250 peer-reviewed publications and is currently editor-in-chief of medical journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
Some of our leading clinicians
Professor Arri Coomarasamy, University of Birmingham
Professor Arri Coomarasamy is the Director of the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research.
Professor Coomarasamy leads a research group at the forefront of early pregnancy care, reproductive medicine and global women’s health. His portfolio includes numerous national and international multicentre randomised controlled trials, including the PROMISE trial (the role of progesterone in women with unexplained recurrent miscarriages), the TABLET Trial (levothyroxine therapy for women with thyroid antibodies), the PRISM Trial (progesterone therapy for women with early pregnancy bleeding), the RESPONSE Trial (G-CSF treatment for recurrent miscarriage), the AIMS trial (the effects of prophylactic antibiotics before miscarriage surgery in low-income countries) and the WHO CHAMPION trial (the role of carbetocin to prevent postpartum haemorrhage). He has published over 140 medical articles in high impact journals such as NEJM and the Lancet, as well as five medical textbooks.
Professor Coomarasamy serves or has in the past served on several international and national committees, including the BJOG editorial board, the RCOG Wellbeing of Women Research Panel, various WHO committees, the Early Pregnancy Clinical Studies Group, the Reproductive Medicine Clinical Studies Group, and the GLOW organising committee. He is the founding trustee of Ammalife, a UK-registered charity with a global mission of reducing maternal deaths in low-income countries.
Dr Manjeet Shehmar, University of Birmingham
Dr Manjeet Shehmar is a Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Clinical Director for Gynaecology at Birmingham Women's Hospital. She was previously the Clinical Lead for the Early Pregnancy Unit and is a member of the Executive Committee of the UK Association of Early Pregnancy Units (AEPU). She is clinically active as part of the early pregnancy team and runs specialist scanning clinics dedicated to early pregnancy and acute gynaecology. During her time at Birmingham Women's Hospital, she has led the growth of the Early Pregnancy Unit to now be one of the largest in the country, with specialist consultant and nursing input. She is an advanced trainer for early pregnancy problems for both medical and nursing staff and has a higher degree in medical education. She has experience in research into medical education and patient experience in gynaecology, with over 20 original articles published in leading journals and five chapters in academic books. She has been recognised nationally for her innovative service developments in early pregnancy by being a finalist and highly commended in two Health Service Journal Awards.
Professor Phillip Bennett, Imperial College, London
Professor Phillip Bennett is Director of the Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Biology, at Imperial College, one of the largest women’s health research facilities in Europe. He is also Imperial NHS Research Director for Women's and Children's Health, and Clinical Academic Training Lead in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He has an international reputation for research into complications of pregnancy and a track record over thirty years of working to improve the health of pregnant women and their babies through basic science and translational research and applying those findings to clinical practice. He has applied both laboratory and clinical research techniques to a range of areas in obstetrics including miscarriage, prenatal diagnosis, fetal growth restriction and preterm birth. He has supervised the postgraduate research of thirty two doctoral students, and has worked extensively with industry to undertake basic science and early phase clinical studies of new drugs to prevent or treat complications of pregnancy. He holds patents on methods for the prediction and prevention of preterm birth. He has served on Scientific Committees for a range of UK charities and international pharmaceutical companies and on editorial committees for American, British, European and Italian Journals of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He is currently a Council Member of the Society for Reproductive Investigation.
Professor Lesley Regan, Imperial College, London
Professor Regan is the Director of the Recurrent Miscarriage Service at St Mary’s, a multidisciplinary team that she has developed to provide comprehensive investigations and treatment for couples with a history of recurrent early and late miscarriages. This service is acclaimed internationally, receiving some 800 new referrals per year and continuing to provide antenatal care for many thousands more couples during their subsequent high risk pregnancies.
As the elected President of the RCOG since 2016, Professor Regan plays a leading role in the national and international advancement of women’s health interests. She is also the President of the UK Association of Early Pregnancy Units, and chairs the FIGO Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights Committee. She is advisor to the NICE interventions committee and a professional member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Research Licence Committee. She is a Trustee of Wellbeing of Women (WOW), the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD), the Genesis Trust and CHARM - the charity for Research into Miscarriage. Professor Regan has also published two successful books on miscarriage and pregnancy for the lay public and presented a series of 6 BBC Horizon documentaries.
Professor Tom Bourne, Imperial College, London
Professor Tom Bourne is Adjunct Professor and research team leader at Imperial College London and Consultant Gynaecologist at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital London. He is visiting Professor and consultant at KU Leuven in Belgium. He has a specialist interest in the management of early pregnancy complications and the use of ultrasound in the assessment of gynaecological disorders. His research has changed national guidelines for the care of women with miscarriage as well as other gynaecological disorders both in the UK and internationally. He has published widely on all aspects of the diagnosis and management of most early pregnancy complications. His work has attracted significant media interest both in the UK and internationally.
He has edited six books, published over 300 papers in international journals and been invited to speak and chair at numerous international meetings on subjects relating to early pregnancy and the use of ultrasound and diagnostics in gynaecology. He has an h-index of 62 with Google scholar. He is on the scientific committee and was recently elected as treasurer on the executive committee of the International Society for Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ISUOG) having been on the board for 8 years. He is a medical advisor and trustee of the UK patient group, the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust. He was elected President of the UK Association of Early Pregnancy Units (AEPU) in 2014. He was specialist advisor to NICE for their guideline on pain and bleeding in early pregnancy. He is on the steering committee of the International Ovarian Tumor Analysis (IOTA) and International Endometrial Tumor Analysis (IETA) studies, both being large multiple centre trials. He was a member of the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound (SRU) consensus panel in the USA to develop safe guidelines for diagnosing miscarriage in 2012, leading to a key consensus paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. He sat on the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) consensus panel to produce guidelines for diagnosing ovarian pathology in 2014. In 2015 he became one of the few UK clinicians to be elected honorary fellow of the AIUM. He is currently on the American College of Radiology panel to refine diagnostic approaches to ovarian pathology. He sits on the scientific committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. His current principal research interests relate to ultrasound, biomarkers and translational research in early pregnancy as well as the classification of ovarian tumours.
Professor Siobhan Quenby, University of Warwick
Professor Siobhan Quenby is a Professor of Obstetrics and Honorary Consultant at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire and the University of Warwick. She is Director of the locally funded Biomedical Research Unit in Reproductive Health. She is clinically active as part of the obstetric team and runs specialist clinics dedicated to the management and research of recurrent pregnancy loss prevention. She has over twenty years of experience in research into implantation and recurrent miscarriage, and has published over 125 original articles and 22 chapters for academic books. Siobhan is co-ordinator of the ESHRE Special Interest Group in Early Pregnancy, a member of the executive committee of the Association of Early Pregnancy Units, chair of the RCOG early pregnancy clinical study group and a member of the MHRA Expert advisory panel member for women’s health. Siobhan’s research is funded by Tommy’s, NIHR, UHCW and other medical charities. Her work has received considerable media interest, including from national newspapers, BBC radio and TV, ITV and Channel 4 news. She is also a media spokesperson for the RCOG.
Professor Jan Brosens, University of Warwick
Professor Jan Brosens' research centres on the role of steroid hormone signalling in the human endometrium, especially in the context of prevalent reproductive disorders, such as infertility, endometriosis and endometrial cancer. His major translational interest is focused on improving the management of miscarriage, the most common complication of pregnancy. He obtained a PhD from the University of London in 1999, working on the mechanisms underpinning the preparation of the lining of the womb (endometrium) for pregnancy, a process called decidualization. He was awarded a Wellcome Trust Clinical Scientist Fellowship in 1998, then joined Imperial College London as Chair of Reproductive Sciences in 2004 and became Chair of Reproductive Medicine in 2008. In May 2011 he was appointed as Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Warwick. Professor Brosens is also the Deputy Head of the Division of Biomedical Sciences at Warwick Medical School.