Local Company Unveils New Down Syndrome Test

"Maternity 21" Blood Test Created By Sequenom Available In 20 Cities

A local biotech company has unveiled a new way to test unborn children for Down syndrome.

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One in 800 children in the United States is born with Down syndrome every year. Until now, women had two choices for testing their unborn children: a blood test, which was not very accurate and produced a lot of false positives; or amniocentesis, which was more accurate but also invasive, unpleasant and somewhat risky.

San Diego biotech company Sequenom unveiled a new test on Monday called "Maternity 21", which has a 99.1 percent accuracy rate.

"It helps the physician and the woman to really get more information before they have to undergo an invasive procedure," said Mathias Ehrich, head of research and development for Sequenom.

Blood tests are given at doctors' offices or clinics. Then, the blood is shipped to Sequenom to be tested.

Mothers that 10News spoke with at a Babies 'R' Us store in La Mesa were happy to hear about the new test, especially one who had had a bad experience with the other blood test.

"They talked me into the test – the blood test –and I did," said Kristen Gonzalez. "I got a false positive and got all worried and then they sent me for more testing."

Fortunately, Gonzalez's baby was born healthy.

Other mothers who did not have a similar scare believe the test would make a positive difference.

"I think it’s great," Michelle Berg told 10News. "I wish it would have been available when I was pregnant with my first son."

Since the beginning of this year, Sequenom has hired more than 100 people into high-paying jobs, which is good for the local economy and a further vote of confidence in San Diego as a leader in the biotech industry.

Sequenom said the test will not cost insured patients more than $235. The test is available in 20 major cities across the country and will be available everywhere within several months.

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