Professor Jeffrey Keelan

Started at UWA: 2008

Drugs and bugs in pregnancy

Pregnancy research is an area where endocrinology, biochemistry, pharmacology, immunology and microbiology all intersect. Essentially, we are looking at ways to optimise health at the start of life as this has the greatest potential for lifelong benefits. Professor Jeffrey Keelan

Professor Jeffrey Keelan’s wide-ranging experience, interests and training have given him a breadth of knowledge and perspective which has proved invaluable in both his research and his role as Head of School of Biomedical Sciences.

After originally studying environmental biology, Professor Keelan worked for 10 years in clinical biochemistry laboratories in the United Kingdom and New Zealand before undertaking his PhD research in placental endocrinology.

He was awarded his PhD in Obstetrics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 1994.

During the next 13 years as a senior lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology in Auckland, Professor Keelan developed a strong interest in the administration of drugs in pregnancy, in particular the pharmacological treatment of inflammation in pregnancy.

Moving with his family to Perth in 2007, Professor Keelan joined the UWA School of Women’s and Infants’ Health, heading the research labs at King Edward Memorial Hospital and subsequently becoming its Director of Clinical Research Governance.

With a longstanding collaboration history with researchers from the Faculty of Science, Professor Keelan has been working on developing nanoparticle-based therapeutics for the safe and effective treatment of placental disorders in pregnancy.

More recently, his work has focused on the role of infection and inflammation in preterm birth, the use of antibiotics to prevent early delivery, and the importance and significance of the microbiome in early life.

This included producing a report on ways to lower rates of child morbidity and mortality (PDF, 4.32MB) through Professor Keelan's research into the prediction, treatment and prevention of premature labour and birth.

Professor Keelan has published over 185 peer-reviewed articles, received more than $18 million in competitive grant funding in New Zealand and Australia, and supervised in excess of 50 research students.

Co-inventor of a microbial test for preterm birth, 2017

Established the Microbiome Consortium of Western Australia, 2016

Discovered new antibiotic capable of crossing the placenta and treating intrauterine infection, 2014

team Created with Sketch.

Visiting Professor, Chinese Academy of Science, 2012

Fellow, Society of Reproductive Biology, 2011

Invited member, Faculty of 1000 Biology, 2007

hospital Created with Sketch.

Founding member, Liggins Institute (Auckland), 2001




National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project grant

  • A prospective, open-label, single-centre/multi-site, randomized clinical trial of a novel maternal microbiological “screen & treat” program compared with normal care for the prevention of preterm birth.
  • Chief applicant with John Newnham, Dorota Doherty and Matthew Payne.

NHMRC project grant

  • Preclinical evaluation of a novel allosteric IL-1R inhibitor (rytvela) for the prevention of perinatal inflammation-induced fetal injury.
  • Chief applicant with David Olson, Sarah Robertson, Matthew Kemp and Hayley Dickinson.

NHMRC project grant

  • Preclinical development of TLR signalling inhibitors for prevention of preterm labour and fetal inflammatory injury.
  • Chief applicant with Sarah Robertson and Mark Hutchinson.


Telethon Perth Children’s Hospital Research Fund

  • Establishing the West Australian Human Microbiome Collaborating Centre.
  • Co-applicant with F O’Gara, M Bunce, M Everard, S Prescott, P Richmond.


NHMRC Project grant

  • Dietary modulation of maternal gut flora with oligosaccharides in pregnancy as a novel allergy prevention strategy.
  • Chief applicant with S Prescott, K Simmer, D Palmer and R Allcock.


NHMRC Project grant

  • Vaginal microbial biomarkers for the prevention of preterm birth.
  • Chief applicant with JP Newnham, M Payne, D Doherty and R Allcock.

Contact Professor Jeffrey Keelan