Karen Best

Dr Karen Best

Affiliate Senior Lecturer

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences


Dr Karen Best is Senior Research Fellow in the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) Women and Kids Theme. She is a Registered Midwife with a unique breadth of experience in clinical project management, academic skills and knowledge translation and is committed to better understanding the essential role that modifiable exposures in pregnancy play in setting the foundations for a healthy start to life.

Dr Best was awarded an MS McLeod Post-doctoral Fellowship in 2019. She currently leads a program of research involving the design and conduct of innovative perinatal trials, with national and international collaboration. Her work focuses on nutritional interventions during, pregnancy and early life (first 1000 days) to ensure children have the best start to life. She is currently leading a landmark national trial of iodine supplementation in pregnancy to identify the optimal amount of iodine needed in pregnancy for infant neurodevelopment.

https://sahmri.org.au/research/themes/women-and-kids/programs/child-nutrition-research-centre/projects/the-poppie-study

She completed her PhD in 2015, titled “The effect of prenatal omega-3 supplementation on childhood allergic disease at six years of age” and was awarded a Dean’s Commendation for Thesis Excellence. Her project involved the long-term allergic disease follow up of 668 children from a large RCT (2499 women) of prenatal omega-3 supplementation to reduce postnatal depression and improve infant neurodevelopment. These findings have been published in top-ranking discipline specific journals (Pediatrics and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Both contributions received supportive editorials and have been cited in policy documents including; Guideline from the Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the European Allergy and Clinical Immunology Position Paper on the influence of dietary fatty acids on allergy.

Her first post-doctoral role as Chief Investigator resulted in the successful completion of the largest trial in the world of Omega-3 in pregnancy to Reduce the Incidence of Prematurity (ORIP) Trial. Dr Best led this National RCT involving 5544 women from multiple participating centres, since been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Evidence from the ORIP Trial combined with the 2018 Cochrane review of omega-3 in pregnancy has recently informed an “Omega-3 Implementation Project. Using the current evidence base and extensive consultation with health professional and consumer reference groups, we have partnered with SA Pathology to deliver a precision nutrition approach involving omega-3 testing and specific guidance for supplementation based on omega-3 status results in the first 20 weeks of gestation. The aim of the implementation project is to reduce the incidence of early preterm birth by embedding sustainable omega-3 precision nutrition strategies in pathology and maternity services.

Dr Best is an Investigator on several industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated grants totalling more than $6, 000 000 and involving more than 11,000 participants. These skills have been recognised internationally with invitations to speak at clinical trial workshops in the US. She has managed interdisciplinary teams and delivered complex research projects involving multiple stakeholders and in changing environments.

Dr Best welcomes enquiries from potential students, particularly midwives/clinicians interested in pursuing a higher research degree.

Research Interests
• Investigation of modifiable exposures (nutrition, environment) in the perinatal period to optimise childhood outcomes.
• Preventative health strategies to optimise the prenatal period and improve lifelong health outcomes
• Implementation and evaluation of evidence-based health care
• Novel clinical trial methods, decentralised trials, e-recruitment/consent and digital retention strategies.

Research Impact
Dr Best’s work on omega-3 in pregnancy to prevent preterm birth Results been used to inform the update of the Australian Perinatal Guidelines and further analysis of this trial has guided an implementation project to embed precision nutrition strategy into routine antenatal care for the prevention of preterm birth.

Previous Experience

Dr Karen Best is Senior Research Fellow in the South Australian Health and Medical Research  Institute (SAHMRI) Women and Kids Theme. She is a Registered Midwife with a unique breadth of experience in clinical project management, academic skills and knowledge translation and is committed to better understanding the essential role that modifiable exposures in pregnancy play in setting the foundations for a healthy start to life.

Dr Best was awarded an MS McLeod Post-doctoral Fellowship in 2019. She currently leads a program of research involving the design and conduct of innovative perinatal trials, with national and international collaboration. Her work focuses on nutritional interventions during, pregnancy and early life (first 1000 days) to ensure children have the best start to life. She is  currently leading a landmark national trial of iodine supplementation in pregnancy to identify the optimal amount of iodine needed in pregnancy for infant neurodevelopment.

https://sahmri.org.au/research/themes/women-and-kids/programs/child-nutrition-research-centre/projects/the-poppie-study

She completed her PhD in 2015, titled “The effect of prenatal omega-3 supplementation on childhood allergic disease at six years of age” and was awarded a Dean’s Commendation for Thesis Excellence. Her project involved the long-term allergic disease follow up of 668 children from a large RCT (2499 women) of prenatal omega-3 supplementation to reduce postnatal depression and improve infant neurodevelopment. These findings have been published in top-ranking discipline specific journals (Pediatrics and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Both contributions received supportive editorials and have been cited in policy documents including; Guideline from the Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the European Allergy and Clinical Immunology Position Paper on the influence of dietary fatty acids on allergy.

Her first post-doctoral role as Chief Investigator resulted in the successful completion of the largest trial in the world of Omega-3 in pregnancy to Reduce the Incidence of Prematurity (ORIP) Trial. Dr Best led this National RCT involving 5544 women from multiple participating centres,  since been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Evidence from the ORIP Trial combined with the 2018 Cochrane review of omega-3 in pregnancy has recently informed an “Omega-3 Implementation Project.  Using the current evidence base and extensive consultation with health professional and consumer reference groups, we have partnered with SA Pathology to deliver a precision nutrition approach involving omega-3 testing and specific guidance for supplementation based on omega-3 status results in the first 20 weeks of gestation. The aim of the implementation project is to reduce the incidence of early preterm birth by embedding sustainable omega-3 precision nutrition strategies in pathology and maternity services.

Dr Best is an Investigator on several industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated grants totalling more than $6, 000 000 and involving more than 11,000 participants. These skills have been recognised internationally with invitations to speak at clinical trial workshops in the US. She has managed interdisciplinary teams and delivered complex research projects involving multiple stakeholders and in changing environments.

Dr Best welcomes enquiries from potential students, particularly midwives/clinicians interested in pursuing a higher research degree.

Research Interests

  • Investigation of modifiable exposures (nutrition, environment) in the perinatal period to optimise childhood outcomes.
  • Preventative health strategies to optimise the prenatal period and improve lifelong health outcomes
  • Implementation and evaluation of evidence-based health care
  • Novel clinical trial methods, decentralised trials, e-recruitment/consent and digital retention strategies.

Research Impact

Dr Best’s work on omega-3 in pregnancy to prevent preterm birth Results been used to inform the update of the Australian Perinatal Guidelines and further analysis of this trial has guided an implementation project to embed precision nutrition strategy into routine antenatal care for the prevention of preterm birth.

 
 
Community engagement and participation
I am passionate about communicating the importance of clinical trials to the public and developing more effective ways to encourage public involvement resulting in my recent national selection by the NHMRC to feature on the new Australian Clinical Trials website.

 I designed and manage a Facebook page for SAHMRI Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children theme and have arranged several local events to inform the public about the latest research including a sold out 'Dinner with a Scientist' evening for Australian Society for Medical Research.

 
  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2016 - ongoing Afiliate Senior Lecturer University of Adelaide
    2016 - ongoing Post-doctoral Research Fellow South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute
    2015 - ongoing Research Fellow South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Adelaide
    2009 - 2012 Clinical Trial Project Manager Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne
    2005 - 2009 Clinical Trial Manager Women's & Children's Health Research Institute, North Adelaide
    1990 - 1991 Registerd Midwife The Queen Victoria Hospital
    1984 - 1987 Registered Nurse The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2020 Achievement Runner-up ACTA Trial of the Year Australian Clinical Trials Alliance Australia
    2019 Fellowship MS McLeod Post-Doctoral Fellowship Women's and Children's Hospital Foundation Australia
    2018 Award ISSFAL Early Career Award International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) United States
    2016 Achievement Winner South Australian 'Fresh Science' Competition Science In Public, Victoria. Australia
    2016 Award Travel Grant Healthy Development Adelaide Australia $1000
    2016 Scholarship Research and Ethics Training Scholarship Praxis Australia $1000.00
    2015 Recognition Deans Commendation Doctoral thesis Excellence University of Adelaide Australia
    2013 Scholarship MS McLeod Peadiatric/Child Health Nursing Scholarship MS McLeod Foundation Australia
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2012 - 2015 University of Adelaide Australia PhD Medicine
    2005 - 2007 University of Canberra Australia Advance Certificate Clinical Trial Management
    1991 - 1992 The Queen Victoria Hospital Australia Graduate Midwife Program
    1990 - 1991 The Queen Victoria Hospital Australia Registered Midwifery Certificate
    Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide Australia Registered Nursing Certificate
  • Postgraduate Training

    Date Title Institution Country
    2012 - 2015 PhD Medicine University of Adelaide, Adelaide Australia
    2005 - 2007 Graduate Certificate Clinical Trial Management University of Canberra Australia
  • Certifications

    Date Title Institution name Country
    Registered Midwifery Certificate Queen Victoria Hospital Australia
    Registered Nursing Certificate The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • Research Interests

Date Project Other Investigators Role Funding Body Amount
2020 Prenatal Iodine Supplementation
and
Early Childhood Neurodevelopment - PoppiE

Tim Green, Jacqueline Gould, Thomas Sullivan, Maria Makrides, Rosalie Grivell, Jeanie Cheong, Hossein Afzali, Shao Zhou, Dorothy Mackerras, Dr Stefan Kane, Huda Safa, Andrew Mcphee, Monika Skubisz, Lex Doyle

Prinipal Investigator MRFF $3,430,000
2020 Folic Acid in pregnancy Paul Trim Prinipal Investigator SAHMRI $30,000
2020 Detection of unmetabolised folic acid in pregnant women at 36 weeks gestation taking multinutrient supplements with or without folic acid Dian C Sulistyoningrum (PhD Student), Thomas R Sullivan, Monika Skubisz, Debra J Palmer, Simon Wood, Martin F Snel, Paul J Trim, Maria Makrides, Timothy J Green Prinipal Investigator Women's and Children's Hospial Foundation $100,000
2019 The effect of maternal unmetabolized folic acid on allergic disease in the infant

Tim Green, Maria Makrides, Debbie Palmer

Prinipal Investigator Thrasher Research Fund (US) $30,000
2017 A randomized controlled trial to investigate nutritive effects of a cow’s milk-based infant formula on growth rates of late preterm infants Professor Maria Makrides, Dr Carmel Collins, Professor Robert Gibson, A/Professor Geraint Rogers, Dr Andrew McPhee, Dr Lisa Yelland Cheif Investigator

Mead Johnson Nutritionals
International Commercial

$2,200,000
2017 Omega-3 in breastmilk

A/Professor Beverly Muhlhausler, Professor Maria Makrides, Dr Carmel Collins, A/Professor Geraint Rogers,

Cheif Investigator BASF Newtrition Grant
International Commercial
$64,000
2017 Phthalates and preterm birth A/Professor Philippa Middleton, Professor Maria Makrides, A/Professor Jo Zhou, Professor Robert Gibson, Dr Andrew McPhee, Dr Lisa Yelland Cheif Investigator/Clinical Project Manager Women's & Children's Hospital Foundation
Domestic, not for profit
$54,000
2013 Omega-3 fats to reduce the incidence of preterm birth. Makrides M, Yelland L, McPhee A, Zhou S, Quinlivan J, Dodd J, Atkinson E, Safa H, Van Dam J, Khot N, Gibson R Cheif Investigator/Clinical Project Manager NHMRC $4,021,840
2016 The Breast Milk Omega-3 Trial Beverly Muhlhausle, Andrew McPhee, Maria Makrides Cheif Investigator BASF Newtrition $64,000
2015 Does fish oil supplementation reduce
allergies in school age children?
Sullivan T, Palmer D, Gold M, Kennedy DJ, Martin J, Makrides M PhD Candidate/Student Investigator NHMRC $429,231
2005 DHA to optimise maternal and infant
outcomes.

Maria Makrides, Robert A. Gibson, Andrew J. McPhee, Carmel T. Collins, Peter G. Davis, Lex W. Doyle, Karen Simmer, Paul B. Colditz, Scott Morris, Lisa G. Smithers, Kristyn Willson, Philip Ryan

Clinical Project Manager NHMRC $1,649,000
2003

Neurodevelopmental Outcomes of Preterm Infants Fed High-Dose Docosahexaenoic Acid

Maria Makrides, Robert A. Gibson, Andrew J. McPhee, Carmel T. Collins, Peter G. Davis, Lex W. Doyle, Karen Simmer, Paul B. Colditz, Scott Morris, Lisa G. Smithers, Kristyn Willson, Philip Ryan

Clinical Trial Coordinator NHMRC $615,000
  • Position: Affiliate Senior Lecturer
  • Phone: 0881284404
  • Email: karen.best@adelaide.edu.au
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: SAHMRI, floor 7
  • Org Unit: Women's and Children's Health

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