First European biobank for research on drugs in breast milk

Published: 2019-06-11


In a new European research project known as Conception, scientists will evaluate how drug treatment affects pregnant and breastfeeding women. Uppsala Biobank, will begin collecting breast milk and blood samples from pregnant and lactating women currently on drug treatment. In addition, the SciLifeLab Drug Optimization and Pharmaceutical Profiling facility (UDOPP) will develop new methods to analyze the samples.

The knowledge about how drugs affect the fetus and breastfeeding newborn child is very limited and only about five percent of the drugs have sufficient safety information regarding the issue. For this reason many pregnant women are forced to choose between drug treatment and breastfeeding in order to avoid exposing the child to unnecessary risks.

In April this year, Conception, a five-year research collaboration between academic researchers and the pharmaceutical industry, was funded SEK 305 million from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a collaboration between EU and the European pharmaceutical industry. The consortium consists of almost 200 researchers from 88 different organizations and 22 countries which will work closely together in order to help pregnant and breastfeeding women by obtaining evidence-based drug treatment.

Uppsala University will be responsible for bio-banking and analysis of the samples which comes from all over Europe. Mats G. Hansson, professor and director at Uppsala University Center for Research Ethics and Bioethics will lead the work. According to him, the project is important because the pregnant woman, the fetus and the nursing child are exposed to risks when safe, evidence-based care and treatment cannot be offered.

– Removing a medicine for safety protects the fetus but poses a higher risk for the pregnant woman who needs her medication. Advising from breastfeeding also has an ethical cost because it is known that breastfeeding is valuable for both the child and the mother, says Mats Hansson in a press release from Uppsala University.

Companies and universities involved in the project are Novartis, UCB Biopharma, European Institute of Innovation through Health Data, GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica, LAREB, Sanofi Aventis, Takeda, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, University Medical Center Utrecht, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Ulster, and Uppsala University.