Under its FP7 research programme, the European Union has awarded €6m in funding to a consortium led by researchers at University College Cork (UCC) that’s working on bringing a test for the pregnancy complication pre-eclampsia to market.
Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication whereby high blood pressure happens in the second half of pregnancy.
The research consortium is being co-ordinated by Prof Louise Kenny from UCC, while it is also being driven by two companies, Metabolomic Diagnostics from Ireland, and Pronota NV from Belgium.
The four-year IMPROvED (IMproved PRegnancy Outcomes by Early Detection) project will involve the setting up of a multicentre clinical study to assess and refine two prototype screening tests for pre-eclampsia.
One of the two tests was developed at UCC and funded by the Health Research Board and Science Foundation Ireland.
“Pre-eclampsia affects almost one in 20 first-time mothers and globally causes approximately 70,000 maternal deaths each year," said Kenny. "Our ultimate goal is to develop a robust predictive test for pre-eclampsia and to improve the outcome of pregnancy for both mothers and their babies."
As part of the IMPROvED project, the researchers will set up a pregnancy biobank whereby blood samples will be collected from 5,000 first-time pregnant women from at least five countries, including Ireland, the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.