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Implementation of Whole Genome Sequencing as Screening in a Diverse Cohort of Healthy Infants


Project Summary/Abstract There is growing societal and scientific interest in using genomic sequencing (GS) as screening to identify genetic predispositions for disease early in life to prevent or mitigate future illness. There is, however, skepticism about the clinical utility of GS in infants and concerns that it could lead to psychosocial harm, unjustified health expenditures, and unnecessary healthcare utilization, with associated iatrogenic morbidity. Over the past five years, within the NIH-funded NSIGHT Consortium, our team launched the ?BabySeq Project,? the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) of GS in newborns. We implemented a clinical workflow for whole exome sequencing, created criteria for returnable gene/variant selection and interpretation, curated a list of 1,514 disease-associated genes with favorable validity, age of onset and penetrance; and designed novel reporting formats. We enrolled and randomized 325 families to a family history (FH) arm or a FH+GS arm, completed sequencing in the FH+GS arm, disclosed results to families and placed reports in the infants? medical record. Our results were striking. Medically, we identified and disclosed unanticipated monogenic disease risks in 11% of infants randomized to GS, and through follow-up testing revealed previously undiscovered signs of underlying disease and unexplored family history in over half of these. We found no increased distress or disruption to the parent-child relationship in response to receiving GS results and no significant increases in downstream healthcare costs. Healthcare providers (HCPs) were able to constructively manage the information reported. The BabySeq Project created a template for studying the psychological impact, medical utility, and cost effectiveness of GS in healthy newborns. However, our BabySeq population was not diverse and thus our findings not generalizable. In order to disseminate this technology equitably, it will be crucial to understand its impact on ethnically and racially diverse populations. The goal of this study is to build on what we learned in BabySeq to study GS as screening in a population of underserved, primarily African American and Hispanic, infants. We will return pathogenic GS and copy number variation results and study the impact on families and HCPs, as well as the medical and economic impact. Through this research we will develop, implement, and evaluate a sustainable approach to GS as screening that leverages underserved community engagement to minimize distrust and maximize benefit. This novel study provides a unique opportunity to determine medical, behavioral and economic outcomes in an under-represented population of infants at three diverse CTSA sites, modeling the vision of GS as a part of healthcare implemented early in childhood. This project is significant because it proposes to generate much-needed evidence of the value of GS infants, innovative in its design as the first RCT to explore the impact of WGS in a diverse population of healthy infants, and feasible because this team of experts has experience in enrolling participants and the infrastructure to rigorously collect and analyze outcomes.

Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.