Deirdre Zander-Fox can trace her interest in infertility right back to her own conception. After 10 years of trying by her parents, Deirdre was conceived through IVF technology developed by the University of Adelaide’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. “I feel a strong link to this department,” she says, “as it has helped so many couples achieve their dream of having a baby – including my parents.”
While studying a Bachelor of Science, Deirdre was again introduced to clinical IVF, via Dr Michelle Lane, a researcher at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute. On hearing that one in six couples will need assistance to conceive, she was inspired to pursue this important area of research.
At the completion of her degree, Deirdre began training as a clinical embryologist with Repromed, and – thanks to that organisation’s link with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology – was able to concurrently undertake her honours year. She then continued at Repromed while studying her PhD. “The ability to work in the clinical field gave me a unique insight into the clinical application of my research and assisted in making sure that my research was always of clinical importance.”
Deirdre’s research currently focuses on improving clinical IVF laboratory technology that will directly benefit infertile patients. She is particularly interested in the impact of the environment during embryo development and how this can change embryo health and alter the health of the child.
With two NHRMC grants, Deirdre is aiming to improve embryo freezing survival, as well as the screening of embryo culture media, to find the best embryo for transfer and thus improve pregnancy rates. Her ultimate goal is to improve the outcomes of in vitro fertilisation, making sure that the technology is safe and does not impact on the health of the child.
“My research focuses not only on increasing pregnancy rates after assisted reproductive technology, but also on making sure that the children born from this technology are healthy for life.”
Deirdre is now Scientific Director of Repromed and remains a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide, where she performs research and supervises PhD and honours students. She is also a guest lecturer, providing students with insight into the latest techniques and challenges faced in the clinic.
To learn more about Deirdre’s research, watch the video Infertility and Clinical IVF