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WIRF is one of Australia's leading organisations that is dedicated to improving the health of women and infants.

Jeff Keelan

Jeff Keelan - Deputy Director and Head of the Women and Infants Research Laboratories

Jeff Keelan

Deputy Director and Head of the Women and Infants Research Laboratories

$ amount awarded in competitive grant support

Number of peer reviewed articles published

Number of postgraduate students supervised

  • Jeff Keelan is Professor and Head of Laboratories at the University of Western Australia’s Division of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH). He is a Deputy Director of the Women and Infants Research Foundation (WIRF), Scientific Director of the WA Pregnancy Biobank and Director of the WA Microbiome Consortium of WA (MiCWA). Within WA Health, Jeff is Director of Clinical Research Governance at KEMH and a member of the Board of Management of the WA Health Translation Network (WAHTN).

    Professor Keelan has 35 years’ experience in pregnancy research, initially in Auckland New Zealand prior to moving to Perth in 2007. He has published over 175 peer-reviewed articles (cited more than 6000 times) and received more than $14 million in competitive grant funding. Jeff has supervised 50 postgraduate students and examined 47 theses. He is Associate Editor of three international medical journals, a frequent reviewer of national and international grant applications, and an active member/leader of multiple professional scientific societies, both Australian and international.

    Jeff is a passionate advocator of science in health & medicine, and is active on social media under his Twitter handle @jeff_keelan.

  • Jeff has wide-ranging research interests across many aspects of pregnancy, with a particular focus on preterm birth, placental infection and inflammation, and the prevention of preterm birth and neonatal morbidity using novel pharmacological approaches.

    Originally trained as a biologist/clinical biochemist, Jeff became interested in placental endocrinology and immunology as a PhD student in Auckland, New Zealand, where he worked on the production and actions of inhibin and activin by the human placenta. After his PhD and postdoctoral research, which was focussed on cytokine-prostaglandin interactions in the placenta, he received a Faculty appointment in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Auckland in 2000. This new role spurred studies of the role of the placenta as a drug transport organ, and he expanded his research interests to include drug biodistribution, administration and safety in pregnancy. During this time he published widely on placental drug transporters and their role and regulation during pregnancy.

    In 2007 he was recruited to Perth, WA, to head the WIRF/UWA laboratories based at King Edward Memorial Hospital.
    • The Western Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative
    • The use of anti-inflammatory drugs in preventing pregnancy complications
    • Western Australia Pregnancy Biobank for High Risk Pregnancies
    • Microbial biomarkers of preterm birth (Predict1000)
    • Antibiotic therapies for preterm birth prevention
    • The microbiome in pregnancy and early life and its modification by pre- and pro-biotics
    • The use of nanotechnology to deliver safer and more effective medicines in pregnancy
    • The immuno-endocrine environment before birth and its effects on neonatal immunity and childhood development

    • BSc (Hons) in Applied Biology, Liverpool John Moores University, UK, 1979
    • Medical Laboratory Science Diploma, UK, 1982
    • MSc (Hons. 1st class) in Biochemistry, University of Auckland, NZ, 1986
    • PhD in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University of Auckland, NZ, 1994
    • Fellow, Society of Reproductive Biology (FSRB), 2011
    • Winthrop Research Professor, University of Western Australia, 2014
    • Honorary Professor, Telethon Kids Institute, 2015
    • Invited member, Faculty of 1000 Biology, July 2007
    • Nancy Sirrett Lecturer (NZSE) 2007
    • Fellow, Society of Reproductive Biology, October 2011
    • Visiting Professor, Chinese Academy of Science, January 2012
    • Visiting Scientist, Robinson Institute (University of Adelaide), May 2013
    • Named on the NHMRC External Assessor ‘Outstanding Contribution’ Honour Roll, 2014
    1. Ho D, Leong JW, Crew RC, Norret M, House MJ, Mark PJ, Waddell BJ, Iyer KS, Keelan JA. Maternal-placental-fetal biodistribution of multimodal polymeric nanoparticles in a pregnant rat model in mid and late gestation. Sci Rep. 2017 6;7(1):2866. The use of nanotechnology to target drug delivery to the placenta is an exciting and developing concept. Here was used a pregnant rat model to develop tools to study nanoparticle drug delivery in pregnancy.
    2. Stinson LF, Payne MS, Keelan JA. Planting the seed: Origins, composition, and postnatal health significance of the fetal gastrointestinal microbiota. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2017 43(3):352-369. In this review we discuss the concept of the sterile uterus and the sources and significance of the microbiome in pregnancy and the neonate.
    3. Scaffidi J, Mol BW, Keelan JA. The pregnant women as a drug orphan: a global survey of registered clinical trials of pharmacological interventions in pregnancy. BJOG. 2017 Jan;124(1):132-140. This paper surveyed the world’s clinical trials registries and confirmed that pregnant women are excluded from drug trials and that few new drugs for treating pregnancy conditions are being developed and tested.
    4. Ireland DJ, Nathan EA, Li S, Charles AK, Stinson LF, Kemp MW, Newnham JP, Keelan JA. Preclinical evaluation of drugs to block inflammation-driven preterm birth. Innate Immunity. 2017 Jan;23(1):20-33. Here we evaluated a number of promising antiinflammatory drugs for their ability to block inflammation in fetal membranes from spontaneous preterm deliveries. The study confirmed the efficacy of two drug candidates, supporting further assessment in clinical studies.
    5. Keelan JA, Payne MS, Kemp MW, Ireland DJ, Newnham JP. A New, Potent, and Placenta-Permeable Macrolide Antibiotic, Solithromycin, for the Prevention and Treatment of Bacterial Infections in Pregnancy. Front Immunol. 2016 7:111. In this study we identified the novel antibiotic, Solithromycin, as the first macrolide antibiotic capable of crossing the placenta and fighting fetal and intraamniotic Mycoplasma and Ureaplasma infections.

    Jeff Keelan’s full list of publications can be found here (Google Scholar).
For more than 30 years his research has focused on the formation and function of the placenta and its role in normal and complicated pregnancies.

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Women and Infants Research Foundation
Carson House, King Edward Memorial Hospital
374 Bagot Road, Subiaco, WA 6008

Telephone: 08 6458 1437
Fax: 08 6458 1642
Email: info@wirf.com.au

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