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3 April, 2019 - 11:57 By Kate Sweeney

Foetal attraction as Horizon Discovery leads prenatal testing initiative

Horizon Discovery Group in Cambridge is at the heart of a new alliance developing crucial reference material for non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT).

The global leader in gene editing and gene modulation technologies is collaborating with St George’s University Hospital, London, and the European Molecular Genetics Quality Network in the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine at Saint Mary’s Hospital in a project supported by Innovate UK funding.

NIPT is an attractive alternative to invasive diagnostic procedures, allowing women at an elevated risk of having children with genetic disorders to determine the status of their foetus through a non-invasive test. 

This is possible because during gestation blood exchange between mother and child can occur so the genetic status of the foetus has the potential to be detected directly from the mother. 

Although NIPT is increasingly common, incidence of real positives can be low and the risk of a false positive or negative result is significant and can have a major clinical impact. There is therefore an urgent need to develop approaches to control for these errors.

Lisa Wright, business unit leader for diagnostics at Horizon Discovery, said: “Horizon has pioneered the development of well characterised, genetically defined reference standard material to support molecular diagnostics. We are delighted to be involved in this project.”

Professor Asma Khalil from St George’s University Hospital, added: “There is increasingly widespread adoption of NIPT, both in the UK and internationally. 

“Incorrect results can have detrimental effects on patient management, hence we as clinicians want to be confident that test results are accurate.”

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