Warrington lab invests £400k to keep pace with rise in prenatal paternity tests
AlphaBiolabs has invested £400,000 in additional laboratory equipment to meet soaring demand for its non-invasive prenatal paternity test.
The company earlier this year achieved a UK first by introducing the test at its laboratory in Warrington. Previously, samples were sent to the US for analysis, leading to delays in customers receiving their DNA results.
Orders have trebled since the company’s initial investment in advanced technology to test samples from the mother and alleged father from as little as six weeks after conception.
In addition to anxious pregnant women seeking to learn the identity of their unborn baby’s father, the company has seen growth in demand from local authorities around Britain requiring court-admissible tests for use in child protection and custody cases.
AlphaBiolabs’ latest investment includes technology capable of new-generation DNA sequencing, and instrumentation which amplifies the visibility of DNA segments for analysis.
Testing at AlphaBiolabs’ own lab means results are available within seven working days, with an express service providing the outcome in just four days.
Director Rachel Davenport said: “We have seen exponential growth for non-invasive prenatal paternity testing since introducing the service at our lab in March, as awareness has increased and we have been able to shorten the time period for results to be available.
“There is strong demand for people to ascertain paternity at the earliest possible opportunity for many different reasons, and we seem to be reaping the benefits of providing this service.
“The ease of using our nationwide network of sample collectors has made the test more accessible to the wider population.”
She added: “In a climate where there is sensitivity over what happens to personal data, there had been a level of discomfort about sending samples outside of Europe, where there would be a certain loss of control over what happened to that data.
“By testing in the UK, we appear to have assuaged those concerns and reduced the possibility of samples being spoilt during transportation.
“These factors, aligned with being able to offer a more cost-effective solution, have led to orders trebling over the past six months and this has necessitated our additional investment.”
The AlphaBiolabs test involves taking a blood sample from the mother and a mouth swab sample from the man. The DNA of the adults and the foetal DNA from the unborn baby, obtained from the mother’s bloodstream, are extracted at the lab, where the company’s team of geneticists examine these profiles.
It is possible to determine whether the baby shares the man’s DNA. When the tested man is not the biological father, there will be differences.
Previously, invasive methods had to be relied upon to obtain a sample of the unborn baby’s DNA, but they carried the risk of miscarriage.
Under the new method, there is no risk to the unborn baby as a blood sample is only needed from the mother.
Samples are collected by AlphaBiolabs staff from a convenient address, or at one of the firm’s 10 walk-in centres across the UK.
Rachel said: “Bringing this new technology to market produces significant benefits to our customers in terms of convenience and cost. We are proud to be one of the few companies in the world to offer it.”