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Baylor College of Medicine, Berry Genomics Co. Seek to Improve on Prenatal Genetic Tests

Published: Monday, January 07, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, January 07, 2013
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Teams aim to improve prenatal genetic testing by combining BCM’s expertise in using microarrays for DNA analysis and Berry’s non-invasive technology evaluating fetal DNA in maternal plasma.

BCM’s highly ranked genetics program, led by National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Arthur Beaudet, has been dedicated to providing the medical community with high-quality and comprehensive genetics testing services for over 30 years. BCM’s Medical Genetics Lab has pioneered the development and use of microarray technology for the testing of prenatal/pediatric genetic disorders for more than 50,000 cases.

The microarray testing uses a gene-chip to assess the make-up of chromosomes (organized structures of DNA and proteins that are found in cells) in a particular part of the human genome (genetic blue print). In areas of the genome, there are portions of the genetic material that show imbalances because they are duplicated or deleted abnormally with gains and losses of genetic information that may signal risk for a genetic disorder.

Berry Genomics has developed technologies to screen and test for genetic abnormalities of the fetus by evaluating fetal DNA in maternal plasma. This technology avoids invasive prenatal diagnostic procedures of chorionic villus sampling, which requires samples being taken from the placenta, and/or amniocentesis, where samples are taken from the amniotic sac around the developing fetus.

These procedures have been a source of anxiety and apprehension for expectant mothers, Beaudet said.

"We are committed to improving the diagnostic sensitivity of invasive prenatal testing as exemplified by our participation in a recently published collaborative National Institutes of Health-funded study," said Dr. Arthur Beaudet, chair and professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM. "We are conducting research to enable non-invasive prenatal testing to detect all the conditions currently detected by invasive testing. It is an honor and a privilege to participate in this international collaboration."

"We are very pleased to enter this agreement with Baylor College of Medicine," said Dr. Daixing Zhou, CEO of Berry Genomics. "Non-invasive prenatal testing and microarray technology are rapidly changing the way we detect genetic diseases. By collaborating with Baylor College of Medicine, we are now able to offer the complete solutions for prenatal screening and diagnosis."

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