Science

Strand turns eye on prenatal genetic screening

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 31, 2017

Vijay Chandru, CMD, Strand Life Sciences - Photo: TV Jayan



After successfully launching its genomics-based liquid biopsy test for monitoring a variety of cancers, Bengaluru-based bioinformatics major Strand Life Sciences plans to enter the reproductive health sector by launching prenatal and new-born screening tests for genetic disorders.

“We plan to introduce three types of tests – a screening test aimed at couples planning a family, a non-invasive prenatal test that looks for signatures of large chromosomal defects using mother’s blood and screening for inborn errors of metabolism and other genetic defects in newborns,” said Strand Life Sciences Chairman and Managing Director Vijay Chandru.

Test validation

“All these tests would be available in a month or two,” Chandru, who was in Delhi recently, told BusinessLine. “The newborn screening test is fully validated, and we are in the process of rolling out prenatal test,” he said.

Strand’s liquid biopsy test, launched early this year, is capable of providing early indication of tumour presence, its recurrence, and response to therapy. Typically, tumours are assessed through invasive tumour biopsies or through radioactive scans. The latest technique allows early assessment with minimal discomfort to patients as it requires only drawing of blood.

Carrier screening is for couples who want to make sure that they do not carry undesirable genetic traits that could result in genetic disorders in their offspring. Offered through genetic counsellors and general physicians, the test would screen both partners to rule out the presence of defective genes responsible for hereditary diseases.

“The second test is a non-invasive prenatal test using the expectant mother’s blood. This is normally done if any of the parents is found to carry a defective gene or when the mother is relatively old, and hence has a relatively high risk of delivering a baby with conditions like Down’s syndrome,” he said.

The third test, which is done after the baby is born, looks for 52 different conditions such as inborn errors of metabolism, hyperthyroidism, etc. Strand, according to Chandru, has developed a single test for all these conditions.

Prevalence

Nearly 14 to 15 per cent of babies in India are born with incurable genetic disorders. While non-invasive prenatal test is currently priced between ₹20,000-30,000, the carrier screening of couples costs around ₹60,000. But the costs can come down if they know the family history and there is only need to look for certain types of conditions, he said.

Chandru admitted that only a thin line separates a genuine genetic screening that looks for complex hereditary diseases and eugenics but said Strand has an internal ethics committee, registered with the Indian Council of Medical Research, which reviews all tests and reporting standards offered by the company.

Published on August 31, 2017
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