Partnership aims to create the UK’s first centre of excellence for prenatal screening
Premaitha Health has been awarded the contract to provide non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) services at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation.
The trust, based at St George’s Hospital in south west London, will be the first NHS organisation to offer an in-house NIPT screening for pregnant women in the UK. The project award is a three-year contract to use Premaitha’s IONA test, with options to extend annually.
Until now, pregnant women in the UK could only access NIPT privately, with blood samples being sent to the US or China. Not only was this costly, but it carried a waiting time of up to two weeks, which is a long time when parents may need to make decisions about their pregnancies.
The IONA test is the first CE-marked in vitro diagnostic (IVD) product for NIPT. It uses next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to estimate the risk of a foetus having serious genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21), Edward Syndrome (Trisomy 18) and Patau Syndrome (Trisomy 13) by analysing cell-free fetal DNA from a sample of maternal blood.
Working in partnership, Premaitha and the trust intend to establish St George’s NIPT service as a UK centre of excellence for prenatal screening, enabling the trust to offer this test to pregnant women through the NHS and also privately. This will provide accurate and reliable results in a matter of days, allowing pregnant women and their families to receive the information they need to make informed decisions in a much-faster timeframe, reducing anxiety as much as possible.
Too many have been through the anxiety and discomfort of invasive procedures after receiving false positive results from the combined test. The IONA test gives us the accuracy and reliability to reduce this number significantly
Professor Basky Thilaganathan, consultant obstetrician at St George’s, said: “This is great news for the trust and for pregnant women in the UK. NIPT has the potential to make a huge difference to the care and reassurance that clinicians can offer to pregnant women.
“Too many have been through the anxiety and discomfort of invasive procedures after receiving false positive results from the combined test. The IONA test gives us the accuracy and reliability to reduce this number significantly. We are very happy to be able to partner with a UK innovator like Premaitha to create an UK centre of excellence using the first regulated NIPT test.”
Dr Stephen Little, chief executive of Premaitha, added: “This award by St George’s is a strong endorsement of the robustness, reliability and accuracy of the IONA test and we are pleased to be able to collaborate with the trust to make the many benefits of NIPT a reality for pregnant women and clinicians within the UK.
“We recognised the limitations in the current standard of prenatal screening and the huge unmet medical need for a regulated test that centres such as St George’s could provide in-house. We are working closely with the St George’s team to get the IONA test up and running as soon as possible.”
NIPT has a higher detection rate and lower false positive rate than the current combined test offered to pregnant women in the UK. The greatly-reduced false positive rate of the IONA test also means that fewer pregnant women will undergo unnecessary invasive follow-up procedures such as amniocentesis and chronic villus sampling, which are stressful and carry a small risk of miscarriage.