Kelycia Leimert Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

New diagnostics and treatments for preterm birth

Immune balance is required for successful fetal growth and placental development, as well as the maintenance of fetal health.

Preterm birth and fetal inflammation—excessive activation of the immune system—can cause death in young children or health impairments that last a lifetime, such as asthma, vision problems, hearing loss and delays in learning or physical development.

Although there is widespread knowledge related to the consequences of preterm birth, very little has been accomplished in diagnosing the risk for preterm birth and treating the condition.

Leimert’s work will explore the ability of a highly precise therapeutic in blocking preterm birth and fetal inflammation, as well as its safety for the mother and her baby. She plans to combine this therapeutic with a diagnostic test to assess risk and take findings from this work into a clinical setting; bringing forward commercially viable products for this major unmet medical need that will improve health outcomes for women and babies experiencing preterm birth.

“The fellowship not only diminishes financial stress so I can focus on pursuing my research questions, but it gives me further confidence in the clinical need for my work,” says Leimert, who aims to become a leader in Canada in translating basic science to improve women’s pregnancy health and newborn development.

Leimert is supervised by David Olson. Her fellowship has been funded by the generosity of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.

Additional support was also provided by the William & Florence Lede Family Foundation.