June 8, 2020

Today, March of Dimes announces three young investigators as recipients of the 2020 Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards: Dr. Ripla Arora from Michigan State University, Dr. Corina Lesseur from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Dr. Jamie Lo from Oregon Health & Science University. The annual award supports early-career scientists embarking on independent research careers who are committed to fighting for the health of all moms and babies.

Named for the first March of Dimes chairman and president, the award carries a $150,000 grant and is part of the nonprofit’s effort to promote actionable science that turns observations from the laboratory into interventions that support healthy moms and strong babies.

“We are delighted to recognize these outstanding investigators with this year’s Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards. Their important research will advance our understanding of serious medical conditions that impact maternal and infant health and take us one step closer to finding clinical treatments,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical and Health Officer and Interim Chief Scientific Officer at March of Dimes. “Research like this is the backbone of March of Dimes’ work to help every mom have a healthy pregnancy and give every baby the best possible start.”

Each investigator’s research represents a different area of pregnancy outcomes:

  • Dr. Arora’s research will evaluate how non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs influence endometrial 3D structure and pregnancy outcomes. Dr. Arora is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, College of Human Medicine at Michigan State and is a member of the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering.
  • Dr. Lesseur’s research will characterize the effects of genetics and gestational diabetes on the placental DNA methylome in the Pacific Islander community.  Dr. Lesseur is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Medicine and Public Health at Mount Sinai.
  • Dr. Lo’s research will concentrate on the effects of chronic prenatal and postnatal marijuana exposure on infant sociobehavioral and neurodevelopmental outcomes. Dr. Lo is an Assistant Professor in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, and is a March of Dimes sponsored fellow in the Reproductive Scientist Development Program.

The Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards is an early career grant to young investigators who are embarking on an independent research career. Candidates are assessed on their academic background, the strength of the proposal and its clinical relevance to March of Dimes priorities. 

Find more information about the Basil O’Connor Program here.