our big initiative
Our Big Initiative for 2021-22, Borne’s Uterine Mapping Project, will foster collaboration between specialisations and institutions.
In 2020, Borne consulted with a global group of preterm birth experts on what was holding back the advancement of preterm birth research, and how Borne might direct its efforts to accelerate progress. The experts agreed that the answers to the questions that continue to confound scientists and medics are likely to lie at the seams between different areas of scientific focus and specialisation.
MATERNAL IMMUNE SYSTEM
Prof Suhas Kallapur, UCLA
Prof Gendi Lash, Guangzhou W&C Centre
Prof Steve Yellon, Loma Linda University, CA
Dr Elizabeth Bonney, University of Vermont
Dr Viki Male, Imperial College London
FETAL MEMBRANES & PLACENTA
Prof Les Myatt, OHSU; The Moore Institute
Prof Phil Bennett, Imperial College London
Prof David Olsen, Alberta University
Dr Ramkumar Menon, University of Texas
Ms Natasha Singh, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital
Prof Sam Mesiano, Case Western University, Cleveland
Prof Roger Smith, HMRI, Australia
Prof Mark Johnson, Imperial College London
Prof Tamas Zakar, Newcastle Univeristy, Australia
Prof Lou Muglia, Cincinnati Children’s; Burroughs Welcome Fund
MYOMETRIAL CONTRACTILITY /CHANNELS
Prof Rachel Tribe, King’s College London
Prof Michael Taggart, Newcastle University, UK
Dr Sarah England, Washington University
Prof Donna Slater, Calgary University
Prof Kristina Adams-Waldorf M.D., Washington University
The scientists would like to systematically study the biological interactions across different cells and tissues to advance our understanding of normal and dysfunctional labour and identify new interventions to delay or prevent preterm labour.
The unique resource that would power this ground-breaking collaboration are clinical centres of excellence that can provide carefully phenotyped samples from women when they are about to go into labour, and the analysis of the invaluable data generated with these samples by bioinformaticians (the pattern-seekers) and scientists (the hypothesis generators) – together.
“We are all doing fantastic research, making inferences and drawing conclusions on the data that we collect. But we are like the blind men and the elephant. The hardest thing is seeing the whole picture..”
– Prof Steve Lye, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Toronto
Clinical Centres of Excellence
One or more clinical centres will drive the recruitment of pregnant women to join the BUMP initiative and contribute a variety of maternal tissue when they deliver their babies. These women’s clinical phenotypic profiles will be carefully recorded, and the samples collected and processed in accordance with protocols specified by this collaboration of scientific experts.
Advancing Discovery with Big Data
Single cells isolated from these samples will be sequenced and analysed by a participating genomics institute to extract a comprehensive array of scientific data. This data, integrated with the anonymised clinical profile of the cohort of participants, will enable scientists to validate and extend their discoveries and hypotheses and generate new lines of investigation.
The cross-tissue analysis facilitated by the bioresource will enable scientists to validate their work as part of the ‘bigger picture’. This can spark breakthroughs in understanding by bridging the gap between different areas of specialisation.
In addition, this precious bio-resource of tissue from a diverse and well-documented cohort of women should attract more researchers to access and contribute to the project with their hypotheses and analyses.
The project aims to create an invaluable open-source map representing the collective knowledge of a world-class group of scientific experts. Importantly, it will extend the scope and context of their work to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and discovery in ways that are simply not possible without collaboration.
We recently awarded funding to two research groups to progress the feasibility study for BUMP after a competitive grant call and expert peer review. One group involves research teams from Imperial College, Cambridge University, UCL and the Sanger Institute. The other involves researchers from Kings’ College, Newcastle and Imperial College at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
We expect the research teams to be contracted and resourced to begin the studies by early 2022, and the first steps to be taken towards making an open access cell atlas of the uterus a reality. We hope this systems biology approach will advance our collective understanding and potential regulation of the biological processes that lead to the initiation of labour. Ongoing funding will be raised to encourage more talent to this area of opportunity and support new projects that can lead to new treatments and clinical care guidelines to make childbirth safer for future generations.