Aggregated News

Genetic counselor Emily Hardisty sat across from three salespeople from the San Diego biotech company Sequenom two weeks ago. The sales team had come to pitch her on a new way to peer more deeply than ever before into the genome of a fetus during pregnancy.

Sequenom says its test, which became available today, promises “more information about your baby’s chromosomes than any prenatal blood test to date.” But Hardisty wasn’t biting. She says her center, at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, doesn’t plan to order it. It’s not clear how accurate the test is, she says, or even whether it will really benefit parents.

Driven by profit and powerful technology, several biotech companies are expanding popular prenatal screening tests. In addition to looking for Down syndrome, they are starting to check for smaller breaks and errors along a baby’s 23 sets of chromosomes that can also cause severe, if rare, birth defects. In brochures aimed at expectant mothers, Sequenom bills its expanded test as the “only prenatal blood test that analyzes every chromosome of your... see more