March of Dimes, the leading organization fighting for the health of all moms and babies, is has opened the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center (PRC) at UC San Francisco (UCSF). This new PRC, which will focus on prematurity data sharing, computational drug discovery and electronic medical record research, is part of the organization’s shift to speed the pace of discovery to reduce rates of preterm birth in the U.S. To support these efforts, March of Dimes has named Dr. Emre Seli as its Chief Scientific Officer, responsible for leading the organization’s vast research portfolio.

“Research remains the foundation of our work to improve the health of all moms and babies and the work that’s under way at our PRCs represents the heart of our research program,” said March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey D. Stewart. “Under Dr. Seli’s leadership, I’m confident that our increased investments will further advance our understanding of preterm birth and yield real breakthroughs that will improve health outcomes for moms and babies.”

Preterm birth is a problem that cuts across all demographics in the United States and affects 1 in 10 babies born each year. Despite the advancements of modern science, preterm birth – and birth timing in general – is still a mystery to the medical community. The new UCSF PRC will be the newest in March of Dimes’ multi-faceted research network which is founded in a translational research approach and is dedicated to not only solving the challenges of preterm birth, but providing actionable solutions for the medical community.

“Solving the challenges of preterm birth is a difficult goal and accomplishing that goal will require the medical community to reframe their processes. The traditional medical research approach will not be enough,” said. Dr. Emre Seli, March of Dimes Chief Scientific Officer and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. “Instead, March of Dimes has invested in multiple avenues of research to bring together different sources of intellect, experience and technology to find a solution to preterm birth challenges. The new UCSF research center is the latest addition to this collaborating network.”

The UCSF PRC will focus on three goals: To expand data sahring, computational drug repurposing and leveraging electronic medical records.

“I’m honored to be a part of the March of Dimes prematurity research network, which has been making tremendous progress to uncover the root causes of prematurity through countless research projects over the years,” said Dr. Sirota, who will lead the center. “The resulting data from these inquiries, when looked at together through the lens of computational analytics, has the potential to lead to scientific discoveries that could one day drastically alter prematurity clinical care in this country and around the world.”

Dr. Sirota, a women’s health computational scientist has been part of the March of Dimes Stanford University Prematurity Research Center since 2014, playing a vital part in using advanced computational techniques to glean new insights from various types of molecular data and beginning work on a data-sharing repository for preterm birth research.

She addes: “Our designation as an official PRC will provide the resources to continue leveraging our computational and data sharing expertise towards generating therapeutic and diagnostic hypotheses and moving them to clinical trials so we can one day help women experience far fewer incidences of preterm birth.”

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