March of Dimes names recipients of Basil O'Connor starter scholar research awards for advancing maternal and infant health

October 26, 2021

Today, March of Dimes announces two early career scientists as recipients of the 2021 Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards:  Dr. Kok Lim Kua from Indiana University School of Medicine and Dr. Brian Kalish from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).  These annual awards support outstanding investigators just embarking on independent research careers who are committed to advancing the health of moms and babies.

Named for the first March of Dimes chairman and president and now in its 26 year, the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards carry a $150,000 grant. The awards are part of March of Dimes’ research strategy to address the multi-faceted nature of the maternal and child health crisis with funding that supports discovery, translational and social science research, and data collection and analysis.

“We are delighted to recognize these exceptional investigators with this year’s Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards. These awards will help bring discoveries from laboratories to clinical settings to help us get one step closer to the development of lifesaving diagnostics and treatments for moms and babies,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO at March of Dimes.

Each investigator’s research represents an important public health and research topic:

•  Dr. Kok Lim Kua’s research focuses on the implication of obesity during pregnancy on newborn health. Babies born to women who are obese have a three times higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes at an earlier age. The research will study pathways associated with diabetes and glucose control as successful targets for therapeutics and introduce an earlier intervention to prevent subsequent burden of disease. Dr. Kua is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

•  Dr. Brian Kalishs research examines the role of inflammation during pregnancy not only for birth timing, but also for fetal development. The implications of this research may also increase the understanding of the fetal brain response to maternal inflammation which could be applicable to other intrauterine stressors.  Dr. Kalish is a Staff Neonatologist and Scientist-Track Investigator in Neurosciences & Mental Health at SickKids and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Paediatrics and Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto.

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