Norman A. Beischer PhD Prize in Obstetrics & Gynaecology

The Award

As a result of a generous donation from the Norman Beischer Medical Research Foundation, successful PhD candidates in the discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Mercy Hospital for Women are eligible to apply for the Norman A. Beischer PhD prize in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The value of the Norman A. Beischer PhD prize in Obstetrics and Gynaecology is $3000. This prize is to support research travel to enable the recently completed PhD candidate/s to present findings from their PhD at a suitable national/international conference (poster or oral presentation). The prize may be used to contribute to conference travel (airfare, registration and accommodation costs), or research training and study tours at prominent overseas institutions, and other international research career development opportunities.

While more than one award may be made in any year, candidates are eligible to receive the award only once.


Recently the Norman A. Beischer PhD Prize in Obstetrics and Gynaecology was awarded to Fiona Brownfoot for the following PhD. Lay summary of PhD findings below:

"Developing novel therapeutics for preeclampsia"
Fiona Brownfoot
Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mercy Hospital for Women, University of Melbourne

Preeclampsia is a common, serious complication of pregnancy and leading cause of maternal, fatal and neonatal death and disability. Currently there is no medical treatment and the only way to stop disease progression is to deliver the pregnancy. At early gestation this inflicts the serious risks of death and disability on the newborn. 

My PhD explored the exciting possibility of developing a medical treatment for preeclampsia. We identified two medications, safe in pregnancy, quenched key aspects of the preeclampsia process. Using primary human tissues we showed metformin and sulfasalazine reduced key critical pathological processes of preeclampsia.  We demonstrated these drugs independently 1) reduced the placental secretion of toxins and 20 neutralised vasoactive factors known to be unregulated in patients with preeclampsia.

With this preclinical evidence, these molecules have been progressed to clinical trial. These medications could be the first medical therapeutic for preeclampsia and improve the outcomes of mothers and babies globally.