EGA Institute for Women's Health


Collaborations and Funding - Dr Sara Hillman

We have a long standing collaborative relationship with the Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health Genetics and Genomic Medicine research department. We published with PI Professor Beales in 2015 and subsequently developed a collaboration with PI Professor Castellano to develop single cell and spatial transcriptomic capabilities within UCL.

This led to the Castellano group and Great Ormond Street BRC directly supporting the maternal-fetal interface project (PI Hillman) through the appointment of a dedicated research associate (Zenakis) and postdoctoral bioinformatician (Sanchez). Pilot data was generated by the team and with consumable funds from the GOS BRC which led to a successful outcome for a project application to the MRC. This award was made to investigate the maternal fetal interface at a single cell resolution and has resulted in the appointment of a further team member (Moreno) tasked directly with sample processing from the UCH Labour Ward as well as analysing and differentiating between maternal and fetal cell outputs. This project also receives support from Professor Sebire and the pathology team from Great Ormond Street. We recently jointly published on Covid-19 and transplacental transmission risk.

Zenakis and Sanchez have both been awarded further smaller consumable and equipment grants to explore other related avenues (Xenakis different tissue states/ techniques as part of PhD and Sanchez use of AI in modelling placental pathology to inform an independent Research Fellowship) from various ICH and GOS funding streams.

The latest development in this relationship is that GGM is supporting two fellows financially to undertake PhDs in women’s health topics under supervision from PI Hillman (focusing on single cell of maternal fetal interface and microbiome interactions).  The aim is to benefit UCL Genomics service with new technology development and equally Womens’ health by driving forward essential cutting edge research. One fellow, who is working on microbiome in pregnancy complications, was awarded a further equipment grant from GOS to set up a sterile/ non sterile hood environment and to purchase a robot to automate processes which has been installed at the ZCR building where the team have dedicated laboratory space. PI Hillman has an Honorary contract status with GGM since 2017, testament to the length of the relationship.

Internationally the group work closely with teams from the All India Institute for Medical Sciences AIIMS, New Delhi (Dr Vatsla Dadhwal) and Sonam Norboo Memorial Hospital, Leh Ladakh (Dr Padma Dolma). Wellcome funding resulted in a collaboration with these units to explore the genomic influence of high altitude on fetal growth with the resultant publications.

Bhandari S, Dolma P, Mukerji M... Hillman SL. Population History and Genome Wide Association Studies of Birth Weight in a Native High Altitude Ladakhi Population. Plos One. 2022 Sep 20;17(9): e0269671. 

Dolma P, Angchuk PT, Jain V, Dadhwal V, Kular D, Williams DJ, Montgomery HE, Hillman SL. High-altitude population neonatal and maternal phenotypes associated with birthweight protection. Pediatr Res. 2021 Jun 8


Prevention of Stillbirth using Optical Technologies and Knowledge Transfer $1,116,532 (£809,081) Wellcome LEAP. September 2022 – August 2025 Co-I (PI Mitra)  

Mapping the maternal-fetal interface at a single-cell resolution to interrogate the aetiology of severe pre-eclampsia and identify potential disease. £893,089 MRC Molecular and Cellular Board. April 2022- Jan 2025. PI                                                         

Organ Maturation in Preparation for Birth US$1,500,000 (£1,105,000). Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: Pediatric Networks for the Human Cell Atlas. Feb 2022-Jan 2025. CoI, PI Dr Marko Nikolic, UCL  

Borne Uterine Mapping Project (“BUMP”). £499,926. Borne Charity. June 2022-May 2023. CoI, PI Professor Phil Bennett, Imperial College, London  

Enhanced, tailored antenatal care versus routine care to reduce anaemia in pregnancy in rural low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). £803,597. GCRF Newton/ Medical Research Council. Sept 2018- March 2023. PI       

Remote training for Massive Obstetric Haemorrhage in Tanzania. £74,702 THET. July 2020- July 2022. PI.        

The Immune Response at the Maternal-Fetal interface in Pre-Eclampsia £14,544. Mason Funding. Mar 2020- Feb 2022. PI