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DGHI Professor Co-Chairing DC Symposium on Noninvasive Prenatal Genetic Screening

June 16, 2015

Subhashini (Shubha) Chandrasekharan, assistant research professor at the Duke Global Health Institute, and Vardit Ravitsky, associate professor at the University of Montreal, are co-chairing the first symposium dedicated to exploring the implementation experience of new technologies for noninvasive prenatal genetic screening (NIPS). 

The symposium, titled “Where We Are and Where We Are Going,” will take place at Carnegie Library in Washington DC on July 16, immediately following the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis.

Attendees will include a variety of NIPS stakeholders, including clinicians, genetic counselors, researchers, bioethicists, patient advocates, industry representatives and payers.

What is NIPS?

NIPS is screening for risk of fetal chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21) and Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18). In 2011, a new technology came on the market that analyzes the cell-free DNA in the mother’s blood stream, which includes the baby’s DNA. Innovative new methods for sequencing this cell-free DNA allow much more accurate screening for common chromosomal disorders compared to biochemical screening.

This new approach significantly reduces false-positives and therefore minimizes unnecessary invasive amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) procedures. As a result, NIPS has been adopted rapidly by patients and providers.

Five companies currently market NIPS tests in the United States, each with its own platform and algorithms. NIPS is currently also available in 90 countries, but the tests are expensive, limiting its use among low- and middle-income populations.

Symposium to Promote Sharing of Research, Discussion

The one-day symposium will explore the challenges, benefits, limitations and costs of implementing NIPS, as well as ethical considerations, especially for informed decision-making going forward.

The meeting will feature several leaders in the field of prenatal diagnosis and experts in policy, social and ethical issues, including:

  • Lucas Otano, president of the International Society of Prenatal Diagnosis 
  • Alberto Guttierez, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics
  • Mark Nunes, physician, Kaiser Permanente
  • Stephanie Meredith, medical outreach director, National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Down Syndrome Resources

Chandrasekharan hopes that the symposium will provide a productive forum for sharing ideas and research methods and creating a network of researchers and other stakeholders involved with clinical implementation NIPS. She also anticipates that articles in peer-reviewed journals will result from discussions at the symposium.

“This event is a unique opportunity to engage directly with and learn from the experiences of different stakeholders about the important policy issues and other challenges for effective and ethical use of these technologies,” Chandrasekharan said.

The symposium is jointly funded by the March of Dimes, Genome Canada, and Duke’s Josiah Trent Foundation.

Learn More

To learn more about and register for the symposium, “Stakeholder Perspectives on Noninvasive Prenatal Genetic Screening,” visit the symposium website. Spaces are limited—register soon to reserve your space!

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This event is a unique opportunity to engage directly with and learn from the experiences of different stakeholders about the important policy issues and other challenges for effective and ethical use of these technologies

Subhashini (Shubha) Chandrasekharan, DGHI professor

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