Chief Executive Officer and Founder
Location: California, USA
Number of employees: 230
Year founded: 2004
201 Industrial Road, Suite 410
San Carlos, CA 94070
Prospective parents who are concerned about chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome have historically faced an agonizing choice. The most accurate tests, amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS), are invasive: they require taking a sample from the amniotic sac or placenta, which involves a small but significant risk of inducing miscarriage. Non-invasive tests have been much less accurate – until now.
In March 2013, Natera launched the Panorama Test, a non-invasive test with levels of accuracy comparable to amniocentesis and CVS. The test, which can be performed as early as in the ninth week of pregnancy, involves analysing the mother’s blood which contains tiny fragments of free-floating foetal DNA.
Natera’s technology is unique in two ways. Firstly, it can gather more detailed information from the tiny fragments of DNA – effectively, viewing the genetic picture in higher resolution by also analysing the DNA of both parents. Secondly, it has developed a highly complex and computationally-powerful algorithm to analyse that picture and, using data from the Human Genome Project, calculate the statistical probability that it represents a chromosomal disorder. Natera also offers counselling to help clinicians and parents interpret the test results.
The technology is used in other chromosomal and genetic tests developed by Natera, such as non-invasive paternity testing, which can also be done as early as in nine weeks of pregnancy; determining the cause of a miscarriage to help prevent a repeat; and selecting for implantation the IVF embryo with the highest probability of a viable pregnancy.
Natera’s technology could potentially also be used to screen blood samples for cancer.