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erasmus mundus

The Programme

EM Kick Off meeting presentation V7

Currently one of the global challenges is to strengthen the partnership among organizations within the knowledge triangle:
Academia, Research and Industry. This partnership aims to contribute to:

  • Generating new interdisciplinary professionals,
  • Ensure excellence in scientific production,
  • Facilitating the transformation of research results into products and services for the benefit of society,
  • Be a bridge of communication and cooperation between them.

1.The specific objectives of this EMJD FETALMED-PHD include:

  1. (Academic objective) To create a distinct academic programme for interdisciplinary research, education and training of doctoral students around the field of Fetal Medicine, enhancing their career opportunities in different sectors, and making an international referral hub for training, research and innovation in the field.
  2. (Research objective) To develop competitive research and innovation projects aiming at improving current knowledge and providing pre-clinical solutions for personalized early diagnosis and therapy in fetal medicine, with a strong focus in emerging technologies (omics) and disease models (stem cells).
  3. (Socio-Economic objective) to translate basic science results to clinical solutions in order to prevent disease and reduce the cost of treatment and rehabilitation later in life, to further enhance excellence in fetal medicine, and to improve long term quality of life of young children and their families.


  • To develop an interdisciplinary research training by offering to PhD Candidates a strong platform to enhance creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, during  their  education and training as researchers in the Fetal Medicine  and Early Childhood Health area.
  • To enhance international cooperation, interdisciplinary training and transfer of knowledge between research organizations and enterprises of different countries and sectors.

The programme is addressed to professionals from different backgrounds in Clinical (obstetricians, radiologists, cardiologists…), Basic (Biologists, biochemistry…) and Technological (bio-engineers, physicists…) fields. They will be enabled to become professionals capable of dealing productively with medical problems and delivering products and processes to different sectors of the society.

This is a customized education and training programme that will allow the candidates to enhance their own knowledge and capacities, and make them familiar and sufficiently knowledgeable in other disciplines that complement their expertise.

Tuition, training and research main language will be English, however the Doctoral Students will be offered to learn additionally their Home University Language. 

3. Structure

  • Each candidate will have one Home University where he/she will spend most of his/her doctorate period and another Host University, where he/she will spend 6 months of the doctoral period. The doctoral degrees are awarded from these two institutions; we are developing the structure to be recognized as a triple doctorate
  • In addition, candidates could have short stays (between 2 and 12 weeks) at enterprises expert in the research area in which the PhD student will carry out their thesis.

4. Research Lines:

Line 1: Prediction and prevention of fetal programming

Line 1.1: Brain injury and reorganization leading to abnormal neurodevelopment

Line 1.2: Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) - Fetal cardiovascular programming

Line 2: Early diagnosis and management of the main syndromes and complications of pregnancy

Line 3: Fetal therapy and surgery


5. Available FetalMed-PhD Projects in the different Research Lines: 

Line 1: Prediction and rpevention of fetal programming

Project: Actions in maternal welfare

Required profile: Physician specialist in fetal medicine

Short description: Evaluation of different actions of welfare improvement of patients during the pregnancy for the reduction of IUGR pathologies: a randomized controlled trial.

Project: Early diagnosis and prevention of fetal programming associated to assisted reproductive technologies

Required profile: Physician specialist in fetal medicine

Short description: Evaluation of the impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies on the offspring health.

Project: Influence if environmental contaminants in obstetrical adverse outcomes

Required profile: Physician specialist in fetal medicine, Epidemiologist

Short description: The aim of the project is to measure the influence of environmental factors in fetal growth restriction or other pregnancy complications.

Line 1.1: Brain injury and reorganization leading to abnormal neurodevelopment

Project: Brain MRI in pregnant woman and offspring

Required profile: Physician specialist in fetal medicine

Short description: Investigation of changes in brain structure after prenatal adverse environment is essential to understand alterations in brain function. This project includes advanced analysis of brain MRI data (anatomical, diffusion, functional) to describe changes in brain organization in adults and neonates after suffering form IUGR and other prenatal conditions.

Line 1.2: Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) - Fetal cardiovascular programming

Project: Cardiovascular stress test in IUGR

Required profile: Physician or biologist with expertise in animal models and cardiovascular field

Short description: Evaluation of the effect on the cardiovascular system of different stress tests in an animal model of IUGR.

Line 2: Early diagnosis and management of the main syndromes and complications of pregnancy

Project: Maternal and infant health in sub-Saharan Africa – how do air pollutions and tuberculosis affect pregnancy outcome? A prospective cohort study in Ethiopia.

Required profile: 2 Physician with expertise in pregnancy complications management in LMIC.

Short description: The overall objective of this project is to investigate how maternal and infant health is influenced by air pollution and latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) and active tuberculosis (TB) in a prospective cohort of women recruited during pregnancy at public health facilities in Ethiopia. Underlying immunological mechanisms and potential biomarkers for clinical outcomes such as TB and preeclampsia will be explored.

Line 3: Fetal therapy and surgery (Invasive fetal therapy, including fetal surgery)

Project: Open neural tube defect repair

Required profile: Physician-Surgeon

Short description: The study involves the development of a new surgical technique for open neural tube defect repair. The first part of the project will be conduct in an animal model (rabbit, sheep) applying new technologies to increase precision and improve postnatal results. In a second step, this will be tested in clinical conditions to test efficacy and safety.

Project: The genetics of Hernia Diaphragmatica.

Required profile: This project is open to MD or biologist with strong interest in genetics

Short description: Fetal surgery on Diaphragmatic Hernias increases survival and improves quality of life. The cause for the congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is thought to be genetic, however, the genetic lesions remain largely unknown. Understanding the cause and understanding the associated success of the fetal surgery will enable treatment stratification and improve outcome. In this project we will search for the genetic causes of CDH and associate those with surgery outcome parameters. In addition, non-invasive fetal biomarkers for CDH are searched for.

Project: Spina Bifida

Required profile: This is open to MD/ Vet D who have surgical experience (pediatric surgery, neurosurgery, gynecology), including in laparoscopy, preferentially in robotic surgery.

Short description: The standard of current fetal repair is an anatomical multilayered repair. When converting open fetal surgery to endoscopy, often other techniques are used. They are however not validated.

We have a project that focuses on the development of endoscopic surgical techniques and evaluation of the fetal outcome using differnet animal models. The experiments involve not only surgery, yet also advanced neurophysiologic testing, neurohistology and surgical skills evaluation.

Project: Effects of general anesthesia on the fetus.

Required profile: This project is open to MD or biologists who are keen on animal experiments.

Short description: A number of fetal surgery procedures are done under general anesthesia with an additional injection of a morphino-mimetic to the fetus. At times it is only the latter. This project will measure the effect of general anesthesia on fetal metabolic status, brain development, and functional neonatal neurodevelopmental outcome. We use mainly a rabbit model, yet sheep studies will also be done. It will lead to the development of neuroprotective strategies.

Project: Vaginal birth, pelvic floor defects and imaging studies

Required profile: this project is open to an engineer interested to image analysis.

Short description: Vaginal birth leads to a number of injuries to the nerves, fascia and pelvic floor muscles. This project is focused on the early detection of injuries by automated image analysis of pelvic floor ultrasound images, as well on the quantification of repairs, again using imaging (both MR as well as ultrasound). Background knowledge of the clinical problem is not needed; however an engineering training and interest in image analysis is a prerequisite.

Project: The effects of antenatal interventions that promote lung development on brain development and function in late preterm rabbits.

Short description: The consortium has developed relevant neonatal models for the study of prematurity associated lung disease as well as neurocognitive evaluation at later life, using the rabbit. We are studying both novel and established interventions to stimulate lung development in case of prematurity or oligohydramnios; the primary outcome is brain structure and function; secondary measures are lung function. The clinical relevance lays in the current availability to identify fetuses at risk for (late) preterm delivery and predict their risk for neonatal respiratory distress, hence take preventive action to avoid the latter, yet may have an effect on subsequent brain function.

Required profile: Physician, Biomedical Scientist, image analysis specialist (for the processing of neonatal MR or statistician for pharmacokinetic/dynamic studies. The team is multidisciplinary.

Project: Image-guided fetoscopic treatment.

Short description:This project is open to an engineer interested in image analysis. Localisation forms an important aspect of every fetoscopic intervention. Intra-operatively, surgeons mainly rely on fetoscopic images complemented with ultrasound to detect and identify anatomical features. Due to the turbidity of the environment and the narrow field of view localisation is challenging and can be time-consuming. This project investigates machine learning algorithms to automatically detect relevant anatomic features. By conveying this information in an intuitive manner to the surgeon, his/her decision-making process is to be enhanced, resulting in a safer and more efficient intervention.

Required profile: This is open to MD/ Vet D who have surgical experience (pediatric surgery, neurosurgery, gynecology), including in laparoscopy, preferentially in robotic surgery.