Advancing human health in the decade ahead: pregnancy as a key window for discovery: A Burroughs Wellcome Fund Pregnancy Think Tank

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Pregnancy Think Tank Working Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Recent revolutionary advances at the intersection of medicine, omics, data sciences, computing, epidemiology, and related technologies inspire us to ponder their impact on health. Their potential impact is particularly germane to the biology of pregnancy and perinatal medicine, where limited improvement in health outcomes for women and children has remained a global challenge. We assembled a group of experts to establish a Pregnancy Think Tank to discuss a broad spectrum of major gestational disorders and adverse pregnancy outcomes that affect maternal-infant lifelong health and should serve as targets for leveraging the many recent advances. This report reflects avenues for future effects that hold great potential in 3 major areas: developmental genomics, including the application of methodologies designed to bridge genotypes, physiology, and diseases, addressing vexing questions in early human development; gestational physiology, from immune tolerance to growth and the timing of parturition; and personalized and population medicine, focusing on amalgamating health record data and deep phenotypes to create broad knowledge that can be integrated into healthcare systems and drive discovery to address pregnancy-related disease and promote general health. We propose a series of questions reflecting development, systems biology, diseases, clinical approaches and tools, and population health, and a call for scientific action. Clearly, transdisciplinary science must advance and accelerate to address adverse pregnancy outcomes. Disciplines not traditionally involved in the reproductive sciences, such as computer science, engineering, mathematics, and pharmacology, should be engaged at the study design phase to optimize the information gathered and to identify and further evaluate potentially actionable therapeutic targets. Information sources should include noninvasive personalized sensors and monitors, alongside instructive “liquid biopsies” for noninvasive pregnancy assessment. Future research should also address the diversity of human cohorts in terms of geography, racial and ethnic distributions, and social and health disparities. Modern technologies, for both data-gathering and data-analyzing, make this possible at a scale that was previously unachievable. Finally, the psychosocial and economic environment in which pregnancy takes place must be considered to promote the health and wellness of communities worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-321
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • adverse outcomes
  • artificial intelligence
  • birthweight
  • computational biology
  • developmental origins of adult disease
  • disparities
  • drug discovery
  • evolutionary biology
  • fetal growth
  • fetal growth restriction
  • genomics
  • gestational diabetes mellitus
  • immune tolerance
  • maternal health
  • metabolomics
  • multiomics
  • parturition
  • physiology
  • population health
  • precision medicine
  • preeclampsia
  • pregnancy
  • preterm birth
  • stillbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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