Research Themes


Every year, more than 15,000 babies born in California are diagnosed with a birth defect, and at least 3,000 die before their first birthday. We look at the risk factors and preventives of structural birth defects. We also conduct studies addressing the health of babies born with birth defects. Our faculty members are particularly well known for their research on hypospadias, certain heart conditions, neural tube defects, orofacial clefts, gastroschisis, and limb defects.


The speed at which new technologies are being created is faster than ever before, giving us the tools to do more with less perturbation. Neonatologists employ minimally invasive screens, which are essential for assessing biological function, revealing pathophysiology, understanding the history of disease and assessing its progression. Stanford is the birthplace of certain in vivo molecular and optical imaging tools that can offer real-time information to investigators.


In the study of neonatology and developmental biology, the division draws on the expertise of different types of researchers. In addition to neonatologists, we collaborate with individuals in the fields of neurodevelopment, bioengineering, psychology, microbiology, immunology, and environmental biology. Integration of our transdisciplinary studies of fetal development and perinatal-neonatal medicine is one of our strengths and a core of our program.


Understanding human development requires extrapolation from more simplistic models that can be readily manipulated. We have reliable mouse models for most of the vexing obstetrical and perinatal issues like preterm birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, and failure to thrive. We explore the molecular conversation that exists between mother and baby during pregnancy with the placenta serving as the interface. 


Neonatology is a small subspeciality, and so when it comes to conducting clinical research, collaboration between institutions is critical. In 1991 we began participating in the Neonatal Research Network (NRN), a National Institutes of Child Health and Development consortium that oversees multi-site clinical trials and observational studies in neonatal medicine. The NRN is now comprised of 18 academic research institutions that engage in joint studies.


Stanford has a history of bridging gaps between basic science and clinical research. Cutting-edge experimentations in our labs lead to identification of practical applications for the bedside, which include the validation of diagnostic biomarkers and novel, non-invasive devices, and interventions. We strive to reduce healthcare disparities for mothers and babies through access, clinical research participation, health care literacy, and global collaboration.  


Over 500,000 babies are born in California each year, and 10-12 percent of these infants are admitted to some level of NICU care. We are thus presented with a great opportunity to study outcomes, design tools for quality care improvement, and assess the effects of public policy shifts. Stanford is the coordinating center for the California Perinatal Quality Care Collaborative (CPQCC) and California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC). 


In the United States at least 1 in 8 babies are born preterm, our ranking lagging behind those of other industrialized nations. To address the problem, we launched the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford, made possible through a generous grant from the March of Dimes. We collaborate with five other Prematurity Research Centers across the U.S. and Europe to reduce rates of preterm birth and disparties among racial/ethnic groups.


Assessment of performance and processes in real-time within an operational clinical environment is often difficult or impossible. The Center for Advanced Pediatric & Perinatal Education (CAPE) serves as a working laboratory for research projects that answer clinically relevant questions in a simulated environment. CAPE supports professionals from a variety of fields who come here to discover solutions that impact hospital operations and patient care.