NIPT: finger licking good

1024px-KFC_logo.svgIllumina has decided to “franchise” its verifi non-invasive prenatal screening test. Will the franchised tests be just as good?

Regular readers of the blog know that I regularly attend the national conferences for the relevant medical organizations for prenatal testing for Down syndrome. At the most recent conferences I’ve attended, I’ve learned that the number of labs offering NIPS will soon be expanding.

The First Four

When NIPS first launched on October 17, 2011, Sequenom was the first in the market with its MaterniT21. Then in 2012 came Verinata’s verifi, Ariosa’s Harmony, and Natera’s Panorama. With there just being four NIPS providers, it presented an unprecedented opportunity in prenatal testing.

These four labs knew every expectant mother who was receiving a screen-positive NIPS result. Unlike with other prenatal genetic testing, which is done at labs throughout the country, NIPS presented the opportunity for a defined number of labs that were delivering positive results. This meant they could potentially ensure women receiving a screen-positive result would also receive the information recommended by professional medical guidelines. So far, Ariosa and Natera have stepped up and are delivering these materials to health care providers that are delivering screen-positive test results.

But this defined universe of NIPS labs will now soon become like the rest of prenatal genetic testing.

InformaSeq & verifi by Progenity

At the National Society for Genetic Counselors annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, I noticed a new booth advertising NIPS testing: Integrated Genetics InformaSeq.

Given the spelling of the brand name with “Seq,” I asked if their test was based on Sequenom’s testing. The representative explained that, no, instead their test was based off of the verifi test. The way InformaSeq works is that the verifi testing technology is licensed to Integrated Genetics which then validates their version of the test in their laboratory.

At the American Congress of Obstetrician & Gynecologists District V & VII conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, right next to the Illumina booth was Progenity’s booth offering “verifi by Progenity.” Progenity is yet another testing laboratory licensing the verifi test but validating Progenity’s laboratory’s use of the technology.

So, already, the number of laboratories offering NIPS has increased by 50 percent. Moreover, unlike Sequenom, Natera, and Arioa, Integrated Genetics is what was formerly known as LabCorp, one of the largest testing companies in the United States. And, more verifi-licensed tests and possibly others from one or more of the existing NIPS labs will be rolled out.

Finger licking good?

How is any of this explained by a headline that reads “NIPT: finger licking good”?

Well, when I first heard in New Orleans that Illumina was licensing its verifi test to other labs, it struck me as similar to the business model that made KFC one of the world’s largest restaurant chains. You see, when Kentucky Fried Chicken started, Colonel Sanders would travel the country trying to convince other restaurants to buy his method of cooking fried chicken. But, soon enough, the business figured out the franchising model, selling its branding, proprietary 11 herbs-and-spices mix, and cooking method to independent restaurant owners. And, many will remember KFC’s tag line, “finger licking good.”

Hence, NIPT: finger licking good. It’s a reminder that for all the talk of prenatal genetic testing being about information, everyone–doctors, genetic counselors, and expectant mothers–should first understand when reading any material from the testing laboratories that it’s not about information, it’s about selling information and getting more women to buy their brand of testing.


  1. Great post. I remember I Illumina from awhile ago. Like them even less if possible.
    Selling Short:


  1. […] Sequenom’s MaterniT21, Illumina’s verifi, and LabCorp’s InformaSeq (which is the KFC-version of verifi) all reported that these non-pregnant women were having baby girls that did not have Down […]

  2. […] the same representations are made by Illumina’s licensees of its verifi technology, Progenity and LabCorp’s […]

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