UCSF team wins $2.7 million for innovative project to reduce premature births

A research team including co-principal investigators Shuvo Roy, PhD, and Mozziyar Etemadi, PhD, who trained in Roy’s lab, has been awarded a three-year $2.7 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop a remote monitoring and early warning system to reduce premature births.

The funding will allow principal investigator Larry Rand, MD, of UCSF School of Medicine; Roy, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine; and Etemadi, a postdoctoral scholar jointly appointed between UCSF and UC Berkeley; and team colleagues to further develop a device for sensing microscopic changes in cervical tissue that provide early risk signs for preterm birth.

Dubbed the Smart Diaphragm, the current device is a modified cervical diaphragm—similar to those used for contraception—that uses sensors to monitor the state of a pregnancy. Measurements from the device are transmitted wirelessly to remote databases monitored by clinicians, who can determine if there is a need for medical intervention before labor begins.

The prototype is currently undergoing clinical testing at UCSF Medical Center. The new Gates funding will allow the team to expand testing to more sites, including rural locations in South Africa, and to further miniaturize the device.

Other members of the team include project director Philip Chung, MS, and Alex Heller, MS, both graduates the UC Berkeley-UCSF Masters in Translational Medicine program, which is co-run by UCSF BTS and UC Berkeley’s Department of Bioengineering.


UCSF Teams Wins $2.7 Million for Innovative Project to Reduce Premature Birth


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, PharmD Degree Program, PSPG

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.