Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences


Women and Girls in Science: Anna David

11 February 2021

For the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February 2021 we're celebrating some of the amazing female researchers working at WEISS.

Headshot of Anna David

Anna David is Professor, Honorary Consultant in Obstetrics and Maternal Fetal Medicine, and Director of the Institute for Women’s Health, University College London (UCL). Her main research is in translational medicine. She leads the Centre for Prenatal Therapy whose aim is to develop prenatal therapies for life threatening disorders such as congenital diseases and obstetric complications such as fetal growth restriction, stillbirth and preterm birth. She coordinated the introduction of open fetal surgery for spina bifida to the UK at UCLHospital, which is now one of two NHS England commissioned fetal surgery centres. In the last 10 years she has been funded over £42 million, £6 million as PI and £36 million as co-applicant in translational medicine from the European Commission, Wellcome Trust, EPSRC, NIHR, MRC, Action Medical Research, Sparks, Wellbeing of Women, Rosetrees Trust, and industrial collaborators. She led a successful bid to the European Medicines Agency to designate placental insufficiency as an Orphan Disease. She is developing a first-in-woman trial of a maternal gene therapy for severe fetal growth restriction.

What is your favourite thing about your job?
Being able to potentially make a difference to the care for women that I see in the maternity department. It’s great to be able to work with great minds in other non-clinical specialties such as engineering and medical physics to solve the problems that I face in clinic. When we do it’s a real buzz.

What inspired you to work in this area?
I enjoy the speed of working in obstetrics. Most women and their babies are well but sometimes the situation changes rapidly. Being flexible and able to think on your feet is very enjoyable. Also being there with women, couples at the start of a new life is such a privilege.

Describe a typical day at work for you – and how has this changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I usually work one day a week in the hospital scanning pregnant women in my fetal medicine clinic. I also work on a Labour Ward looking after women in labour. I combine that with teaching medical students, doctors and scientists at the hospital and the Institute for Women's Health. I host a lot more Zoom calls but I’ve always been one to take advantage of technology to keep in touch. Even before the pandemic I would host some lab meetings via Skype.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Keeping going when rejections (papers, grants etc) come in. It’s not personal but can feel like it!

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Getting an NIHR Senior Lectureship which secured my academic career path to become a senior academic. I was very unsure that I would get it but it’s good to put yourself forward for these things. “If you’re in the game you can win”

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that has helped you in your career?
Appreciate that your time is yours to control. I try to manage my diary very proactively but am not always successful!

What advice would you give to young girls thinking about going into science?
If you are curious about life then science is a great career to get into.