In January 2005, my wife and I had a baby boy, Ayden. By all appearances, he was a normal, healthy child doing what newborns do best; sleeping and crying when hungry. The hospital he was born in participated in a Newborn Screening (NBS) Program. The screening tests detected G6PD, an Inborn Error of Metabolism (IEM). G6PD can be fatal in some cases but is very easily treatable. It is estimated in a paper, Inborn Errors of Metabolism (IEMs) - An Indian Perspective by Dr. N. B. Kumta, that there are about 360, 000 births every year in India that test positive for G6PD.

As a parent, this incident made me realize the benefits of screening infants for IEMs (also commonly referred to as Metabolic Disorders). A simple concept with very powerful implications; detecting and treating disorders before symptoms appear, thereby saving numerous lives. Screening is mandated in the US, where more than 47 states screen newborns for over 40 metabolic disorders. In 6 US states, there is not even an option to not do the test for any reason.

Dr. Rohit Cariappa, DABCC, and I moved to India and formed NeoGen Labs in June 2006 to offer the 1st Step Newborn Screening Test to screen newborns for IEMs. We had a simple goal - offer a reasonably priced, accurate screening test that physicians can rely on. No shortcuts, no compromises. After all, we are dealing with a life that is precious!

Every newborn in the US is screened and we want to ensure that parents of all newborns in India get the same opportunity. And, for those newborns that test positive, NeoGen Labs will support the physicians and parents in their efforts in treating the newborn, so that they can lead a normal, healthy life.

We worked with the best vendors in the world to set up a lab that is benchmarked against the best in the industry. The filter paper form to collect the sample and the associated packaging was custom designed for us by Whatman (a GE Healthcare company), to maintain sample integrity in the harsh environmental conditions in India.

We entered into a Technology Licensing Agreement with PerkinElmer Genetics, (formerly Pediatrix Screening), Bridgeville, USA, the world's leading company in Newborn Screening. They pioneered the use of Tandem Mass Spectrometry (MS/MS) which currently screens for nearly 45 metabolic disorders, from a single dried blood spot collected on a filter paper 24 to 72 hours after birth. PerkinElmer Genetics has screened over 4 million babies of all ethnicities, using MS/MS since 1994, and continues to screen over 400, 000 every year. We have replicated the PerkinElmer Genetics facilities at the NeoGen Newborn Screening lab in Bangalore.

I hope this conveys the importance of newborn screening. You could spend a lot of money on gifts for an infant, but the gift of a newborn screening test will last a lifetime! As for Ayden, he is just another normal seven year old who talks a lot.

Thomas Mookken
CEO
Jan 2012