Spotlight: Dr Adeniyi Olagunju

Posted on: 9 May 2023 by Louise Colley in May 2023 posts

Dr Adeniyi Olagunju

This edition of Spotlight focusses on Dr Adeniyi Olagunju, a Tenure Track Fellow in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Adeniyi joined the University of Liverpool in June 2021 and recently established the Perinatal Pharmacology Group. Prior to this, Adeniyi was a Senior Lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, where his research was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The challenge

Pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth is known as the perinatal period, a crucial time for the development of babies. However, doctors are not sure if it is safe to give medicines to pregnant and breastfeeding women because there is not enough information about the risks.

Pregnant women are generally excluded from clinical trials due to complex ethical and legal issues surrounding the risk to unborn babies. It usually takes over 20 years after a medicine has been approved to find out if it is safe for pregnant women. Currently, only 2 out of every 100 approved medicines have been studied enough to know if they are safe to use during the perinatal period.

We need a reliable way to confirm which medicines are safe in pregnancy. This could help save the lives of mothers and babies and reduce the number of babies that are stillborn every year.

Our research

The Perinatal Pharmacology Group is based within the Centre of Excellence for Long-acting Therapeutics (CELT), where ongoing innovative research will transform drug delivery strategies for major disease burdens.

The group is led by Dr Adeniyi Olagunju and their ongoing research is focused on broadening our understanding of drug safety and efficacy during pregnancy and lactation. Their goal is to generate actionable knowledge that will facilitate early recommendations for safe use of medicines during the perinatal period.

Dr Olagunju commented “My vision is to play a key role in transforming the assessment of drug safety in human pregnancy by using an integrated approach to generate human pregnancy-relevant safety information. This will facilitate decisions about when pregnant women can be safely included in early-phase clinical trials, and enable evidence-based, pregnancy-specific recommendations for potentially life-saving therapeutics. Central to this is early engagement with relevant stakeholders, especially women’s group, regulators and industrial partners.”

Clinical research

The group’s work has shown how maternal adaptations to pregnancy increase the rate of drug removal from the body, leading to lower concentration during pregnancy for certain drugs. They also established how several factors, including genetics, affect foetal and breastfed infant drug exposure.

For example, the LAMP study is an observational cohort study with the aim of advancing our understanding of the pharmacology of long-acting injectable antipsychotics in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Participants will initially be recruited across six sites in Nigeria.

In silico modelling

The group develop in silico pregnancy models to make realistic predictions of foetal drug exposure. They can use these models to predict the exposure of specific foetal organs to maternal drugs. The models can be used for simple drug formulations taken orally daily as well as for more complex therapies like long-acting injectables.

Human-relevant in vitro modelling

Recent exciting developments in tissue engineering have enabled the development of organ-on-chip models, which are able to adequately replicate the morphological, biological and functional features of specific organs. Adeniyi’s group is interested in developing novel placenta-on-chip models using cells isolated from human tissues with the aim of establishing the placenta’s role in drug disposition and to understand how drug exposure affects the placenta.

Open access data platforms

Open sharing of research data on technology platforms allows wide access to research outputs, potentially broadening the benefits of research beyond the original study objectives. Working with collaborators and partners, Adeniyi’s group are developing new open access initiatives. A recently launched collaborative platform, the Long-acting Therapeutics Patents and Licences Database ( allows users to track the clinical development and regulatory landscape of long-acting therapeutics.  

The group will soon launch the proof-of-concept version of another platform that provides access to individual-level pregnancy and lactation pharmacokinetic data of therapeutics. This will speed up scientific enquiry and discovery in these areas for the benefit of society, reducing duplication, increasing productivity and promoting innovation.