Professor John Newnham

Started at UWA: 1999

Pioneer of the Raine Study

As a result of modern obstetric and newborn care, many children now survive preterm birth but for others, there may be lifelong disability. What drives me to complete my work is the desire to see an increase in the number of healthy babies born each day, because life before birth means something.  Professor John Newnham AM

John Newnham AM graduated in medicine from The University of Western Australia in 1976 and pursued postgraduate training in obstetrics in Australia, Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. He became a professor in 1989 and has stayed with us ever since.

His enduring research and clinical passion has been to unravel the mysteries of life before birth, how health and disease throughout our lifespan may result from events while we are a foetus, and how common illnesses and disabilities can be prevented by strategies during pregnancy.

In 1989, Professor Newnham pioneered the Raine Study, which involved recruiting 2900 unborn babies at 18 weeks of pregnancy and then following their health, and that of their family, for life. This was the world’s first pregnancy-focused lifetime cohort study and remains one of the most successful medical research studies to have been conducted in Australia.

More recently, he has applied three decades of research findings to discover how the rate of preterm birth may be lowered at a population level. In 2014 he launched the Western Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative and its early success has now enabled him to expand the program nationally. 

In July 2018 he led the development of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, supported by NHMRC in Canberra. This alliance is the world’s first national program aiming to safely reduce the rate of harmful early birth across its population.

Professor Newnham is Head of the UWA Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, based at King Edward Memorial Hospital, and Chief Scientific Director of the Women and Infants Research Foundation. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Peking University, Beijing.

During his time at UWA, Professor Newnham’s research has led to worldwide changes in clinical practice, in particular in the management and prevention of preterm labour. He has published nearly 400 original articles in peer-review journals; his research has been funded by NIH (US) for 27 years and by NHMRC for 30 years; and he has attracted more than $25 million in grant support.

Professor Newnham also teaches Integrated Medical Practice Part 1 and Integrated Medical Practice Part 2 as part of the Doctor of Medicine (MD) course.

The John Newnham Oration given at the Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand DOHaD Society, 2015 onwards

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Order of Australia in the General Division (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, awarded “for his contribution to medicine, in particular in the field of obstetrics”, 2013

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Convenor of the World Congress held in Perth, 2007

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Chairman of the Perinatal and Infant Mortality and Maternal Mortality Committees of the Health Department of Western Australia, 2001 to present

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Gold Medal, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, UK, 1991

Inaugural member of the International DOHaD Society




National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

  • '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'
  • Newnham, J., Doherty, D., Keelan, J. & Payne, M.

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

  • 'An Australian mutli-state partnership to prevent preterm birth'
  • Newnham, J. & Doherty, D.


National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

  • 'Purchase of a Kingfisher 96 Flex nucleic acid/protein purification system'
  • Newnham, J., Batley, J., Doherty, D., Garratt, L., Geddes, D., Keelan, J., Kemp, M., Payne, M. & Wang, K.


Saving babies' lives


Contact Professor John Newnham