Press release

Drug study award to help children “fulfil their potential”

Published on 4 December 2023

The impact on children exposed to opioids while in the womb is to be examined following a major award secured by a University of Dundee researcher.

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Dr Louise Marryat, of the University’s School of Health Sciences, has been named a recipient of a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship.

Dr Marryat, who is based at the University’s campus in Kirkcaldy, will utilise the award to study the health and development of children who are exposed to a variety of opioids before birth. Working in partnership with women who use opioids, the study will utilise routinely collected medical data to examine the pathways impacted youngsters take through childhood.

It is hoped that a better understanding of these young people will allow their support networks, including families, clinicians, social workers, and teachers, to support them more effectively.

“To be awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship is a tremendous honour,” said Dr Marryat.

“Very little is known about the impact that opioid use in pregnancy has on the child. There are many complex issues that surround this. 

“These families are more likely to experience challenges, such as living in poverty, and some children will not stay with their birth parents. At the moment we don’t know how much exposure to opioids before birth itself affects development, or whether it is the environment that children grow up in that is important. Children may also be exposed to different types of opioids, and different doses, and we don’t know much about how this affects their development. 

“This support from UKRI will provide support to enable me to focus on research into the impact of opioids in pregnancy on the long-term development of children and young people – a timely and hugely under-researched area.

“I am looking forward to devoting my time and energy to this topic, as well as building a dedicated team, including women who have themselves used opioids in pregnancy, to explore these complex issues at an international level.

“My hope is that our findings will identify the best means of supporting affected children and allow each and every one of them to fulfil their potential.” 

Josine Opmeer, Assistant Director-Research, Research and Innovation Services at the University, added, “Dr Marryat’s award brings the total number of Future Leaders Fellowships at Dundee to six, each an early career researcher at the very forefront of research and innovation in their chosen fields. 

“The awards fund not only a programme of innovative research, but also provide unique, tailored training and mentoring programmes to the Fellows to promote their career development and that of their team, thereby supporting the next generation of research leaders at the University. 

“The Future Leaders Fellowships are UKRI’s flagship funding programme and to have our academics consistently recognised in this way is a reflection of the breadth of incredible research talent in Dundee, and to have secured one of only four in Scotland in this round underscores Louise’s achievement.”

You can learn more about Dr Marryat’s work via her research profile.


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489