NYU Winthrop Hospital and Progenity, Inc., today announced a collaborative research and development initiative for women’s health with a focus on preterm births. As part of the initiative, NYU Winthrop Hospital granted Progenity an exclusive license to key intellectual property for which NYU Winthrop holds patents in the U.S. and Europe (see U.S. Patent No. 9,797,903 and European Patent No. EP2912458). The granted patents are directed to a biomarker for predicting preterm births, and the two organizations are collaborating on discovery studies to identify additional preterm birth markers, as well as the clinical validation of other reproductive health tests for Progenity. NYU Winthrop is the Long Island affiliate of NYU Langone Health, while Progenity is a privately held biotechnology company developing precision medicine solutions across genomic/epigenomic, proteomic, and microbiome diagnostic and therapeutic platforms.
Preterm births occur in approximately half a million pregnancies in the U.S. each year—15 million worldwide—and are a leading cause of newborn deaths. Developing a biomarker test that can identify the risk of preterm birth could improve the health management of these pregnancies. Such an advancement may also lead to further discoveries that help physicians better understand and prevent preterm births.
“NYU Winthrop’s biomarker represents a potential breakthrough in predicting preterm births, which may save lives and decrease the rate of life-threatening neurological issues in preterm infants,” said Louis Ragolia, PhD, who is director of biomedical research at NYU Winthrop and is the scientific researcher who first identified the biomarker. “Progenity is providing exceptional expertise to harness the full capabilities of this important discovery in women’s health.”
This biomarker is based on an important discovery made by Dr. Ragolia involving a gene that produces an enzyme in pregnant women. The enzyme is responsible for the synthesis of a lipid called “prostaglandin D2,” a hormone-like product that contributes to early contractions and preterm labor. Further work by Dr. Ragolia led to the full characterization of the enzyme and its clinical effects relative to the risk of early delivery and preterm birth.
“This marker shows great promise to inform development of a novel biomarker panel for preterm birth. Combining the diagnostic test development expertise of Progenity with NYU Winthrop’s leading clinical center and state-of-the-art research facility strongly positions this partnership for success,” said Matthew Cooper, PhD, chief scientific officer at Progenity. “Progenity is continually striving to make healthcare more precise with new technologies supplying previously unavailable evidence informing critical care pathways. Novel tests for these prenatal conditions could reduce complications and provide better outcomes for mother and child.”
“Conditions like preterm labor and births are major contributors to morbidity and mortality for both the mother and newborn,” added Martin Chavez, MD, chief of the Division of Maternal–Fetal Medicine and Fetal Surgery at NYU Winthrop Hospital. “The successful development of this test could enable us to proactively manage and screen for the risk of preterm delivery rather than being reactionary. No one test should be used in isolation, but this biomarker panel for preterm birth could be a powerful tool.” Dr. Chavez expressed hope that the collaborative studies would further add to the tools available to aid in safe deliveries.
Dr. Chavez noted there are management options for women at risk of preterm delivery (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), including tocolytics that slow or stop labor contractions and antenatal corticosteroids that speed up a baby’s lung development, among other treatments.
Concluded Dr. Chavez, “Together with Progenity, we are ideally situated to examine medical conditions in a new light and advance new management and treatment modalities.”
Progenity, Inc., is a privately held biotechnology company with the mission of transforming healthcare to be more precise and personal. The company is translating innovation into precision medicine through diagnostic and therapeutic development platforms based on genomics/epigenomics, proteomics, and microbiomics. These platforms feed a research and development pipeline of innovative products designed to improve patient outcomes in prenatal and perinatal healthcare settings, oncology, and gastroenterology. Progenity’s ultimate vision is to make precision medicine a reality by both diagnosing disease at its source and treating it with targeted therapies developed by the company. Progenity is headquartered in San Diego, California.