Dr. Virginia Pensabene


I graduated in 2004 in Electronic Engineering from the University of Pisa and I hold a PhD in Humanoid Technologies from the University of Genova and the Italian Institute of Technology in Italy. My PhD thesis received the National award “Alberto Mazzoldi”, issued by Interdepartmental Research Center "E.Piaggio, Bioengineering and Robotics Research Center”, Faculty of Engineering, University of Pisa.

In 2008 I was Exchange Researcher at the Department of Life Science Medicine Bioscience of TWIns, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. I worked with Prof. Shinji Takeoka and Dr. Toshinori Fujie to develop a magnetic ultrathin film for biomedical application.

I was Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, Nashville (TN, USA) from 2011 to 2015, where I worked on the development of an organ-on-a-chip model of the blood brain barrier and on the design of novel biocompatible permeable membranes. As Principal Investigator, I carried out extensive work on the use of ultrathin film for suturing foetal membranes and for in utero repair of myelomeningocele. 

In 2015 I became Research Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University, working with the Women Reproductive Health Research Center at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In the framework of projects funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Veterans Affairs, I developed microfluidic models of the human endometrium and of the foetal membranes for reproductive toxicology studies.

In 2003 I co-founded a successful medical start-up (WinMedical, www.winmedical.com) and served as CEO for 2 years.

I am currently a University Academic Fellow (corresponding to Assistant Professor, 5 years tenure track in USA) with a joint appoinment between the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Medicine, Leeds Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.

I have been a Marie Curie Fellow from June 2017 to June 2019 and my reserach is now supported by NC3Rs, MRC, EU and Grow Med Tech.

Research interests

My research is focused on integrated microfluidic devices to develop organ-on-a-chip models of reproductive organs.

Specifically I am interested in the pathophysiology of infertility and pregnancy failure.

I am focused on the development of micro and nanotools to evaluate the effects of toxicant exposure (e.g. environmental toxicant, bacteria, chemotherapeutic drugs) that may lead to preterm birth and impair fertility.

My academic activity is characterized by an interdisciplinary approach and by a profound interest in medical science.

My most recent awarded projects are:

  • Microfluidic embryo culture as a device to improve the efficiency of infertility treatments in humans, Grow Med Tech Proof of Concept, 12 months, (PI)
  • Next-Generation Material for high-volume production of Sustainable, Biocompatible Organ-On-Chip devices, EPSRC TTL Organ-on-a-chip Network Sabbatical project, 6 months, (as Co-I)
  • Microfluidic model of human pulmonary artery: vascular cell positioning under flow, EPSRC TTL Organ-on-a-chip Network Sabbatical project, 6 months, (as Co-I).
  • Pregnancy and Reproduction Organ-on-a-chip Models, H2020-MSCA-IF-2016, 24 months, (as PI).
  • Integration of nano- sensing in microfluidics to improve success of fertility treatments,  MRC Confidence in Concept, 12 months, (as Co-I).
  • Single-Entity Nanoelectrochemistry, H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018, 4 years, (as Co-I).
  • Design, Fabrication and Testing of a Mouse Embryo Culture Chip, NC3Rs CRACK-IT Challenge, 14 months, (as PI).
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Research groups and institutes

  • Pollard Institute
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>