2022 Distinguished Fellows

The SSR Distinguished Fellowship recognizes active SSR members for their outstanding contributions to the field of reproductive biology and to the Society, illustrated by sustained high impact research, leadership, service and mentorship.

Sudhansu K. Dey, PhD, PhD

SK Dey obtained his PhD degree from the University of Calcutta, India, in 1972 in Reproductive Biology.  He obtained postdoctoral training at the Univ of Kansas Medical Center and stayed there for almost 30 years. He then moved to Vanderbilt University and is now at the Cincinnati Children’s. He has served and has been the scientific community at many capacities…. as reviewers on NIH and other grants, served in journal editorial boards and still serves as an advisory board member of Journals. SK Dey has been awarded numerous national and international awards and accolades. His group has published more than 350 articles in impactful journals.

SK Dey’s lab is dedicated to exploring the molecular landscape of preimplantation and implantation biology to address emerging and future challenges in the field. Rapid population growth and infertility are two significant global issues that concern the health of children and women. These issues are profoundly influenced by the events of preimplantation embryo development and implantation. Embryo implantation involves an intricate discourse between the embryo and uterus and serves as a gateway to further embryonic development. Synchronizing embryonic development to the blastocyst stage with uterine differentiation to the receptive state is crucial to successful implantation and positive pregnancy outcomes. This process is a complex interplay of numerous signaling molecules and hierarchical instructions to coordinate the embryo-uterine dialogue, which investigators are still working to unfold. Dey’s group utilized genetically engineered mouse models to explore the role of the cytokine, growth factors, transcription factors, homeobox, and morphogen signaling axis in embryo-uterine interactions during implantation. A better understanding of periimplantation biology could potentially alleviate female infertility and develop novel contraceptives. His lab discovered that cooperative interactions among preimplantation embryos promote their own growth via paracrine interactions by growth factors secreted by them. This study exemplified that embryos cultured in groups in a small volume of medium have superior growth than those cultured singularly. Many human IVF programs have adopted this concept to improve embryo growth.

Dey’s group discovered that uterine cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is critical to ovulation, fertilization and implantation, and COX-2 derived prostaglandins (PG) mediate embryo implantation via PG receptors and peroxisome proliferator activated (PPAR) receptors. These studies have profound impact on female fertility and have raised concerns regarding chronic consumption of NSAIDS or COX-2 inhibitors by women during their reproductive life. They discovered that G-protein coupled cannabinoid receptor CB1 and CB2 and their endogenous ligand anandamide are critical to embryo implantation. This study shows that both amplification and silencing of cannabinoid/endocannabinoid signaling adversely affects various aspects of early pregnancy. These observations led to studies in humans showing that higher endocannabinoid levels cause spontaneous abortion in women. They also showed that aberrant cannabinoid/endocannabinoid signaling impairs oviductal embryo transport, which has clinical relevance to ectopic pregnancy in women.  Later, Dey lab have shown that a short delay in timing of implantation or defective implantation creates an adverse ripple-effect throughout the course of pregnancy, leading to defective feto-placental development and poor pregnancy outcome. This constitutes a new concept that embryo-uterine interaction prior to and during implantation set up the subsequent developmental programming. This is consistent with clinical data showing that implantation beyond the normal window of receptivity leads to pregnancy losses in women. His lab was the first to show that COX-1 and COX-2 are major triggers for reproductive cancers, and that COX-1 is the primary factor in ovarian cancer, which argued against the belief that COX-2 was the main cause. This work was followed by a search for the cause of uterine cancer using mouse models. They found that COX-2 and mTORC1 signaling promote endometrial cancer. Combination therapies targeting these pathways showed success in blocking the progression of cancer in mice and, as these pathways are conserved in humans, leads us to possible therapies for human women.

Moira K. O’Bryan, PhD

Dr O’Bryan graduated from The University of Melbourne in 1994 with a BSc(hon) then PhD in the area of immunology and reproductive biology. Subsequently, she was awarded an Andrew Mellon Foundation Fellowship to work at The Population Council in New York in the field of contraceptive development. She returned to Australia in 1996 as a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Peter Doherty Fellowship to work at Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development (now the Hudson Institute), Monash University, where she established a lab focused on male fertility. In 2009 she moved to the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Monash University as Deputy Head of Department. She was appointed Program Lead (Development and Stem Cells) within the Monash Biomedical Discovery Institute in 2015, and Deputy Director in 2016. In 2017 she assumed the role of the Head of the School of Biological Sciences within the Faculty of Science at Monash University, and in 2020 she was appointed Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science at The University of Melbourne. The focus of Dr O’Bryan’s research encompasses sperm development and function, genetic causes of human infertility, and the implications for ‘reproductive’ proteins on health broadly. She directs a multidisciplinary and highly collaborative research program covering fundamental research, and clinical medicine. In her role as Dean, she directs a large faculty spanning physics, chemistry, life and ecological sciences, mathematics, geosciences and human geography.

Dr O’Bryan has received research-based fellowships and awards from numerous agencies including the NHMRC, the Australian Academy of Science, the Fertility Society of Australia, the Endocrine Society of Australia, and the Society for Reproductive Biology (SRB). She was the 2008 American Society of Andrology (ASA) “Young Andrologist of the Year”, the 2015 Anne McLaren Memorial Lecturer (Society for Reproduction and Fertility, UK) and the 2015 SRB President’s Lecturer. In 2011 she was inducted as an SRB Fellow.

She is an active member of several professional societies and has held committee positions within the SRB, the ASA, and the International Society of Andrology. Within SSR she has been a member of the nominations committee (2018-9), a member of the future meetings committee (2013-6) and a co-chair of the program organising committee (with Bo Rueda, 2018 meeting). She was a member of the ‘Biology of Reproduction’ board of reviewers between 2004-12. She has additionally served on the editorial board of journals including, Molecular Human Reproduction, Fertility and Sterility, PLoS Genetics and eLife. Between 2108-20 she was the President of SSR’s sister society, the Society for Reproductive Biology and a member of the World Congress of Reproductive Biology advisory committee.

In addition to roles related to reproductive biology and education, Dr O’Bryan has played a notable part in the promotion of sciences broadly including via positions as a national director of The Australian Society for Medical Research (2003-5), and as a member (and chair) of the Australian Academy of Science National Committee for Cell and Developmental Biology (2013-7). She is a past member of the Australian Research Council College of Experts (2017-20) and has served in numerous roles within the NHMRC. She has made significant contributions to the infrastructure of Australian research through the establishment of The Australian Phenome Bank and the Australian Centre for Vertebrate Mutation Detection, the Monash Male Infertility Repository and the Australian Phenomics Network.

Joy L. Pate, PhD

Dr. Joy Pate is a Professor and the C. Lee Rumberger and Family Chair in Agricultural Sciences in the Department of Animal Sciences of Penn State University, as well as the Director of the Center for Reproductive Biology and Health. She received her Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire and was appointed as Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University in 1983, where she was promoted to Professor and served a term as Associate Chair of the Department of Animal Sciences. She joined Penn State University in 2008. Her research focuses on the cellular mechanisms that regulate the lifespan of the corpus luteum (CL). Her work has provided insight into cholesterol utilization for steroidogenesis, the roles of endogenous prostaglandin production in luteal function, and the mechanisms by which exogenous prostaglandin results in the demise of the CL. Current research emphases are to understand functional programming of luteal-resident immune cells to regulate tissue homeostasis, and the role of microRNA in regulation of differentiation and rescue of the corpus luteum during early pregnancy.

Dr. Pate has been very active in The Society for the Study of Reproduction, serving as Program Chair, Director, Secretary, President and on numerous committees, and received the Distinguished Service Award from SSR in 2011and the Trainee Mentor Award in 2020. She co-chaired the Organizing Committee of the Inaugural World Congress on Reproductive Biology held in Hawaii in 2008 and was a member of the Organizing Committee of the International Ruminant Reproduction Symposium. Dr. Pate has been involved in undergraduate and graduate teaching throughout her career, including development of study abroad programs to Australia and the Azores, for which she has survived trips with up to 20 undergraduate students for 6 weeks at a time! She enjoys conveying the excitement and mysteries of science to students. 

Sarah A. Robertson, PhD

Professor Sarah Robertson is Professor of Reproductive Immunology at the Robinson Research Institute and School of Biomedicine, University of Adelaide. She received her PhD from the University of Adelaide in 1993 and then held NHMRC Research Fellowships from 1996-2013, with terms at The University of Alberta, Edmonton and Gothenburg University, Sweden. In 2013 she was appointed Director of the Robinson Research Institute at The University of Adelaide and held that post until 2021 when she was awarded a NHMRC Investigator Fellowship to return to full-time research. 

Her research focus is the immune response to conception and pregnancy, and consequences for reproductive success and offspring health. Her discoveries have formed the basis for a new understanding of the origins of maternal immune tolerance at conception. She has identified specific cytokines and immune cells that regulate embryo implantation and fetal development. Notably, she demonstrated that male seminal fluid acts to induce adaptations in the female immune response that can promote or impair receptivity to implantation and affect placental development and fetal growth. Her work shows that the immune system channels environmental signals from both female and male parents to modulate reproductive investment and shape offspring phenotype. These findings are providing novel insights into early life origins of health and informing clinical practise in reproductive medicine.

Dr. Robertson has published more than 220 peer-reviewed papers and is an inventor on 4 patent families, 2 of which have progressed to commercial products. She has trained more than 35 graduate students and 20 postdoctoral fellows and many of her trainees have established their own successful laboratories in reproductive biology.  She has served on several NHMRC committees and grant review panels, including the NHMRC Embryo Research Licencing Committee (2022- ), and Council and Research Committee of the NHMRC (2003-2006). She was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Reproductive Immunology (2009-2013) and has held committee and leaderships positions in the Society for the Study of Reproduction, the International Society for Immunology of Reproduction, the International Union of Immunological Societies, and Society for Reproductive Biology. She is grateful for continuous funding support from the NHMRC and the Australian Research Council over her career. Dr Robertson was elected to Fellowship of the Society for Reproductive Biology in 2011, to the Australian Academy for Health and Medical Sciences in 2014, and to The Australian Academy of Science in 2015.

Barbara C. Vanderhyden, PhD

Barbara Vanderhyden is the inaugural Corinne Boyer Chair in Ovarian Cancer Research, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Ottawa, and a Senior Scientist in the Cancer Therapeutics Program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Her history in the SSR is founded on training with two notable SSR members. She earned her Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology with David Armstrong from the University of Western Ontario, and indulged her fascination for oocyte-granulosa cell interactions during her postdoctoral work with John Eppig at The Jackson Laboratory.

Dr. Vanderhyden’s research has explored oocyte-granulosa cell interactions, the risks and processes associated with tumors arising from ovarian and oviductal epithelial cells, the generation and characterization of mouse models with infertility or ovarian cancer, and the discovery and testing of novel cancer therapeutics. Her achievements include co-development of a method for oocytectomy, and the generation of the first transgenic model of epithelial ovarian cancer, more refined, inducible models, and a model for a rare subtype of ovarian cancer. These have been used to explore the mechanisms of tumor initiation and to test new strategies for cancer prevention and treatment. Her 27-year history of managing an ovarian cancer biobank enabled detailed analysis of the expression and function of various therapeutic targets leading to several clinical trials. Her research is currently funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Science and Engineering Research Council, the Cancer Research Society and Ovarian Cancer Canada.

Dr. Vanderhyden has been President of the SSR (2011-2012), a member of the Board of Directors (2005-2008), and a recipient of the SSR Trainee Mentoring Award (2019). She is an elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2020), received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award (2014), was selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women (2007) and was one of the Top 50 Champions of Change by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (2010), the last one reflecting her commitment to effective science communication. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Ovarian Cancer Canada and chairs the OvCAN Governing Council which oversees a national (Canadian) strategic research plan to advance novel treatments for ovarian cancer. Dr. Vanderhyden has received numerous awards for research excellence, promoting science education, and her mentorship activities.

2021 Distinguished Fellows

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