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A strand of double helix DNA

Newborn screening programs are a vital public health measure implemented in the U.S. and across the world, with about one third of babies born globally undergoing some screening. As part of this program in the U.S., nearly every baby born has blood drawn soon after birth, and that blood is tested for a panel of potentially life-threatening inherited disorders. Current newborn screening programs have been invaluable, both in lowering medical costs through early detection and intervention and in decreasing the toll of human suffering that comes from a late diagnosis. Unfortunately, innovation in this field is rapidly outpacing the law, leaving families vulnerable to privacy invasions.

In October 2022, a global consortium of scientists and other newborn DNA sequencing researchers convened to discuss a bold possibility for future care: Every baby born in the U.S. could have their full genome sequenced as an addition to existing newborn screening programs. This means that doctors would have on record all of the baby’s DNA, in addition to drawing their blood and testing for specific, known inherited disorders that can cause serious health...