Monash IVF Group Research and Education

Professor Rob McLachlan
Monash IVF Research and Education Foundation Chairman

FY16 has been an excellent year for scientific and clinical research achievement across the Monash IVF Group, made possible by the enthusiastic and innovative contributions from our clinical, embryological and medical imaging staff.

The Monash IVF Group has been a leader in ART practice and research in Australia for four decades and is committed to maintaining its preeminent role in the field through the Monash IVF Group Research and Education Foundation (MREF).

Its membership includes representatives from our Queensland, NSW, Victoria, and Adelaide programs, the latter two with longstanding and deep connections with research and teaching at Monash and Adelaide Universities, respectively. The rapid growth of our medical imaging programs in Victoria and NSW, with their strong culture of research, adds an important dimension to our ability to undertake clinical research in womens’ health. The MREF network of academic and clinical leaders establishes the Monash IVF Group as a leader in fertility and reproductive research.

The goal of MREF is to provide a solid evidence-base for safe and effective novel treatments that lead to greater chances of a healthy pregnancy. This translation of ‘knowledge into treatment’ is based on both fundamental science and strong clinical interaction. Our collaborative associations with the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, and Monash and Adelaide Universities facilitate these endeavors and many members of MREF share joint appointments at these internationally recognized research institutions. Our success is evident from the research papers and presentations for the last year and our future research directions, as outlined in the current MREF 2015 Annual Report that can be found on the Monash IVF Group website.

FY16 saw initiatives focused on continued research to improve the understanding of embryo-endometrial interactions, the genetics of infertility and early embryonic development. Other work continues in fertility preservation, stem cells in the uterine lining and the roles of infectious agents in causing infertility. We also undertook the first ever randomized placebo-controlled trial of melatonin, a potent antioxidant. This research will report in late 2016.

The Repromed group focused on developing novel medical devices for clinical application. These projects were funded by joint NHMRC grants awarded to Professor Michelle Lane and Dr Deirdre Zander-Fox, and in collaboration with the University of Adelaide, have resulted in the creation of patents and IP for novel methods of culturing human embryos as well as non-invasive markers for embryo selection. Repromed also has a strong focus on clinical trials, such as the multi centre trial ‘LIGHT’ study on the efficacy of growth hormone, as well as low dose stimulation protocols and the impact of obesity on fertility. Professor Kelton Tremellen continues his novel research into the impact of chronic inflammation and obesity on the gut ‘microbiome’ on fertility and IVF success rates.

Across the Monash IVF Group, nurturing of young scientists and clinicians as future academic leaders is a priority. In collaboration with the Robinson Institute and The Gamete and Embryology Laboratory (headed by Professor Michelle Lane), Repromed focuses on supporting post graduate student research through scholarship support, internships and clinical research projects.

The Monash IVF Group’s longstanding partnership with Monash University’s Education Program in Reproduction and Development (EPRD), and the teaching at the University of Adelaide, are providing Graduate and Masters qualifications in reproductive science and embryology and are thereby addressing the national workforce needs in reproductive medicine.

This helps ensure that embryology and related staff working in ART clinics and fertility services are provided with up-to-date knowledge and skills. These activities have resulted in multiple prestigious publications, presentations at national and international fertility conferences, as well as awards for research excellence.

The Clinical Observership program allows overseas clinicians to observe procedures at Monash IVF and to attend various specialist centres around Melbourne, along with access to Monash University facilities and EPRD’s lab facilities. This program has an international reputation and in FY16 facilitated the tailored training programs to clinical specialists from Indonesia and India.

The Group’s ultrasound group has a very active research agenda aimed at improving clinical care. Sydney and Monash Ultrasound for Women are undertaking a large joint study in Non Invasive Prenatal Testing in the ART population while other studies involve monitoring the health of ART pregnancies and exploring women’s experience of a prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormality.

Our presence at international meetings in FY16 continues to be strong and included presentations by Professor Luk Rombauts and myself at the 6th Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE) in Jakarta April 2016, Professor Kelton Tremellen at British Association of Clinical Embryologists meeting in Newcastle, UK and Dr Deirdre Zander-Fox at the 2015 PGDIS in Chicago.

Numerous publications across 2015 are listed in the full report and speak to the quality of research output from Monash IVF Group scientists and researchers. We congratulate Associate Professor Fabricio Costa on the recent awarding of a prestigious RANZCOG Scholarship to support a new research program on the relationship between uterine lining and IVF success. We also congratulate our Adelaide team for the awarding of the best papers for the ‘Established’ Leanne Pacella Ince and ‘Young’ scientists Helana Shedadeh at the national Scientists in Reproductive Technology (SIRT) meeting in May 2016, for work in the areas of genetic diagnosis of embryos and sperm DNA quality, respectively, and Professor Lane who was a finalist in South Australian Scientist of the year.

We are proud of the Monash IVF Group’s research and educational reputation and we strive to maintain exceptional standards in research. We also acknowledge the extent to which our industry partners support the work of MREF through a number of independent research grants. Monash IVF Group pregnancy rates remain amongst the best internationally, driven by our strong commitment to evidence based scientific protocols and research. We remain committed to the belief that excellence in science has its roots in understanding the basic biology and the collection of clinical evidence of safe and efficacy of new approaches to assist the infertile couple.