University of Southampton

USH is a member of prestigious Russell Group of UK Universities, is ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide (QS world university rankings 2016) and 8th in the UK based on research intensity (REF 2014). It has over 7,500 postgraduates from more than 130 countries and is a founding member of the Worldwide Universities Network. USH has a strong track record of working in European projects, the EC FP7 Monitoring Report ranked USH 17th out of all higher and secondary education organisations for number of FP7 participations (2007-2012). Throughout FP7, USH received €132M in research grants, was involved in 319 projects and has successfully completed 39 ITN/IAPP/IRSES projects. The Faculties of Medicine (FoM) and of Natural and Environmental Sciences (FNES) have recently completed 12 Marie Curie ITN/IRSESs under FP7 including EpiHealth with this same team. USH is internationally recognised as leading centre for analysis of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD; ) concept that risk of non-communicable disease in adulthood derives from environmental conditions before birth. The USH partner team have specialised in periconceptional environment origins of adult disease risk, from gametes and early embryos onwards

Short biography principal investigator

The USH group at the Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and regeneration, led by Dr Judith Eckert; Veterinarian specialized in Reproductive Medicine with expertise in human, bovine and rodent reproductive biology).

The USH team have specialised in periconceptional environment origins of adult disease risk, from gametes and early embryos, mediated through ART and maternal nutritional mouse models, evidenced through significant funding and pioneering publications over many years. USH has extensive facilities for mouse reproductive biology, embryology, fetal development, and adult continuous in vivo screening for cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological/behavioural health.

Key persons involved

Dr Sandrine Willaime-Morawek; specialist in neuroscience and neural stem cell biology in relation to maternal diet.



Dr Neil Smyth; University Veterinarian, Head of Transgenic  Facility, specialist in embryo transfer and embryonic stem cell technologies.



Emeritus Professor Tom P Fleming; Honorary Fellow ad eundem RCOG, 2013; Marshall Medal from Society for Reproduction and Fertility, 2013; Editor-in-Chief Reproduction, 2008-2013).


Key Research Facility and Equipment

Extensive USH investment in reproductive and developmental biology and the biosciences includes new Institutes for Life Sciences, Institute of Developmental Sciences, a new Biomedical Animal Facility, and refurbished mouse embryology facilities; ~150 m2. The equipment base for the DOHART-NET project includes (i) Mouse offspring health monitoring facility with continuous and integrated cardiovascular and locomotor activity (implantable telemetry, DSI Dataquest A.R.T. Gold Data Acquisition and Analysis System) and Energy metabolism (pulmonary metabolic monitoring, Panlab Oxylet system); (ii) Centre for Proteomics Research with state-of- the-art instrumentation and expertise; (iii) Coherent Anti-stokes Raman Scattering microscopy for quantitative embryo lipid content analysis; (iv) Neurodegenerative and behavioural facility for in vivo/in vitro neural stem cell analysis. These Multi-user facilities are located at Southampton General Hospital or Highfield Campus of USH. Exploitation and commercialisation will be conducted via the USH Research & Innovation Services, the technology transfer arm of USH. Extensive IT, library and administrative support are readily available.

Current involvement in Research and Training Programmes

The University of Southampton has successfully completed 37 ITN/IRSES projects during FP7. In the recent past, the USH team conducted the BBSRC Project Grants ‘How do preimplantation embryos sense and respond to maternal nutrition affecting fetal development and adult health?’ (2008-2011; £1,021,000), ‘Maternal mechanisms induced by diet regulating embryo developmental plasticity affecting life-long health’ (2011-2014; £561,000); were part of EU FP7 Collaborative Project: EpiHealth: ’Maternal environment during periconceptional development, due to diabetes, obesity or assisted reproductive technologies, and altered health during ageing’ (2011-2015, £300,000); conducted a Rosetrees Trust/USH programme on Endocytosis in embryos and long-term health implications (2016-19; ~£100,000) and has a. further  scholarship-funded PhD student investigating maternal-diet-related long-term health implications; Collectively, the USH team have successfully trained 43 students for PhD during their career funded from local, national and international awards.  Dr Willaime-Morawek is a member of the Postgraduate student committee, FoM, responsible for programme planning and monitoring postgraduate student training and progress.