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Leveraging Leukocytes as Endogenous Biosensors to Create Novel Diagnostics for Preterm Birth

Genomic Applications Partnership Program
GAPP Round: 
Genome Centre(s):
Ontario Genomics
Project Leader(s):
Stephen Lye (Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute)
Receptor Leader(s):
Liu Xin (BGI-Research)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Two hundred million women around the world become pregnant each year. Of those, 13 million will give birth preterm, one million of their babies will die and millions more will experience serious, life-long medical and developmental disorders as a result. In Canada, the annual cost associated with preterm births is estimated to be $600 million.

BGI and Dr. Stephen Lye of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, part of Sinai Health System, have agreed to collaborate in the development of preterm birth diagnostics and screening solutions.

BGI is the largest genomic organization in the world and is committed to reducing the rate of major disease by offering accurate and affordable genetic tests and molecular diagnostics services. Dr. Lye has identified gene expression signatures in maternal white blood cells that can predict which women who experience too-early symptoms of labor will go on to experience preterm birth of their infants. 

BGI and Dr. Lye will work together to enhance the diagnostic capability of these gene expression signatures and aim to develop a simple genomic test to identify risks and prevent preterm births. The test aims to reduce rates of preterm birth by enabling intervention with women at risk, potentially saving the healthcare system $200 million per year and reducing the burden on neonatal ICUs.

BGI intends to continue its research collaboration with the Sinai Health System and expand its R&D activities in Canada, which will generate downstream investment and create jobs for highly qualified personnel.