Orchid Launches First Pre-Conception Test Based on Genetic Risk Scores

A close-up of a mother and father holding a newborn baby son at home.
[Source: Halfpoint Images/Getty Images]

Startup Orchid already has a wait list for its soon-to-be released new test to predict a child’s risk of common diseases—before conception. The test requires only a saliva sample from each prospective parent, and is based on genetic risk scores calculated by testing for genetic variations. The company also announced a $4.5M seed round.

“This is not for the rare genetic diseases,” Noor Siddiqui, Orchid founder and CEO told Clinical OMICs. “These are the most common health conditions and we are aggregating millions of data points about every risk.” The company says its test is based on six billion data points, and those will be added to and updated as new data is gathered in the now rapidly-moving field of genetic risk score assessment.

Orchid’s Couple Report is a home-based test using mailed in saliva samples. It reveals if a couple is at elevated risk of passing on 10 diseases: heart disease, stroke, atrial fibrillation, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s Disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease. The report comprises data from both partners’ whole genomes and models of how that DNA could combine in a child.

Orchid’s test is unique in that it aims to provide even people without a family history of disease a means to determine their future offspring’s likelihood of serious common ailments. People with family histories can now use carrier screening to find out if they have a high risk of passing genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, to their children. It is estimated that market alone will exceed $1.3 billion within the next ten years. Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), another related market, is expected to reach $7 billion within the next few years.

While genetic risk scores have been increasingly used in research, their application in the clinic is not yet widespread. Concerns include the need for rigorous validation, as well as questions about how representative they can be of specific populations.

A typical preconception genetic screening, Siddiqui points out, analyzes 2% of just one partner’s genome and is only capable of detecting rare genetic disorders affecting approximately 1% of the population. By contrast, Orchid analyzes the entirety of both partner’s genomes and assesses genetic predispositions to diseases that affect more than 60% of the population.

“Up until now, parents could only genetically screen for the rare events with a one-in-1,000 or even one-in-a-million chance of happening. Yet there was no way for prospective parents to measure their future child’s genetic predispositions to much more common chronic, debilitating diseases based on their combined genetics alone,” said director of ART Institute of Washington and Orchid advisor Jacques Cohen, Ph.D., “Orchid now makes this at-home test a reality.”

Couples who find they are at elevated risk based on Orchid’s test can elect to pursue IVF and have further analyses of their embryos. Later this year, Orchid plans to launch an Embryo Report that will provide genetic risk information related to IVF embryos.

Investors in the seed round include Refactor Capital, Village Global, Day One Ventures, Olive Capital, and Boom Capital. The round also includes participation from the founders of 23andMe, Counsyl, Clover Health, Coinbase, Eventbrite, Flatiron, Oscar Health Insurance, and Stellar.

“Having children is the most consequential choice most of us make, yet parents go into pregnancy with zero visibility into how genetic risks could impact their future child,” said Siddiqui. “With Orchid’s ultra-high resolution reports, prospective parents can now conceive with confidence, prepared with information and guidance to give their children a better chance at a healthy life.”

Orchid is now inviting couples to join a waitlist to get early access to Orchid’s Couple Report. Each test provides a risk-analysis report for each partner as well as an estimate of their potential offspring’s risk. The estimate’s comprise simulations for both a “highest” and a “lowest” risk embryo.  Couples also receive health and wellness guidance from professionals including genetic counselors and fertility experts as part of the service.

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