A new option in NIPT

Hamilton Robotics and Illumina collaborate on automated, next-gen workflow for prenatal testing

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RENO, Nev.—Expectant parents will have a new option for answers early on, as Hamilton Robotics and Illumina Inc. have worked together to develop a new noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) option in the European Union (EU). The VeriSeq NIPT Solution is an automated, next-generation sequencing (NGS) workflow that offers high-throughput NIPT. The six-step process can handle up to 48 or 96 samples at a time, and generates results in roughly a day, half the time needed by other methods. This automated testing option is also cheaper on a cost per test basis than techniques such as amniocentesis.
The VeriSeq NIPT Solution features Illumina’s NGS technology and Hamilton Robotics’ VeriSeq NIPT Microlab STAR automated workstation and offers a PCR-free whole-genome sequencing workflow, one proven to result in one of the lowest test failure rates for NIPT technologies. The VeriSeq NIPT Microlab STAR is pre-configured and qualified to function with Illumina’s NIPT assay reagents, consumables and analysis software for plasma isolation, library preparation, quantification and pooling of maternal whole blood samples. The automated workflow is meant to simplify sample and library prep while reducing manual pipetting steps for increased throughput and minimized manual involvement. Under this collaboration, Illumina and Hamilton Robotics will co-promote the VeriSeq NIPT Solution.
NIPT screens for certain fetal chromosome abnormalities using cell-free DNA purified from the mother’s blood. It also enables parents to determine the sex of the fetus. The VeriSeq NIPT Solution tests for trisomies 21, 18 and 13, which are also known as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome and Patau syndrome, respectively. It can provide results on fetal chromosome status as early as 10 weeks gestation.
Mary Blair, scientific leader of NGS at Hamilton Robotics, says there is a fairly good market for NIPT at present, given that more women are waiting until they are older to have children.
“In general, we have a greater understanding of when it becomes a high-risk pregnancy. If people are waiting until they have more established careers and income before having children, there’s a greater likelihood for a high-risk pregnancy,” Blair explains. “NIPT helps to alleviate anxiety in the decision to conduct additional screening, because the standard testing that is available, such as amniocentesis, does have some risk involved in it. So NIPT helps to minimize some of those risks associated with traditional fetal screening.”
Hamilton Robotics specializes in offering automated liquid handling workstations and laboratory automation technology, with a portfolio that includes liquid handling platforms, standard application-based solutions, small devices, consumables and OEM liquid handling solutions.
“Illumina was still developing the chemistry when they came to us to develop automation, so we actually got to work together as they were developing the chemistry, helping them with the methods and getting a set configuration put in place,” Blair tells DDNews. “We really wanted to provide a solution that was everything that the testing lab would need, so by adding the automation piece in earlier in the process, Illumina could solidify not only the chemistry to make sure it was automation-friendly, but then they could also go through and include their software analysis as well.”
“Hamilton’s automated technologies have a strong track record of success,” commented Jeff Hawkins, vice president and general manager of reproductive genetic health at Illumina. “The Microlab STAR platform was the right choice for our automated NIPT workflow to ensure a robust, cost-effective, globally supported solution.”
Illumina announced the launch of the VeriSeq NIPT Solution for EU labs on April 10. Hawkins noted in the press release for the launch that “With this validated, CE-IVD marked solution featuring CE-IVD library prep and analysis software, customers can now access highly reliable NGS-based NIPT in their own labs. With this new solution, laboratories can feel confident that they are providing expectant parents with a highly reliable technology that enables accurate results.”

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