Good Start Genetics is expanding VeriYou, its physician-ordered carrier screening tests, to include screening for Gaucher disease and 18 other inherited genetic disorders that are especially prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews, or those of Eastern European origin.
The expansion is being led by a partnership signed last November between Good Start, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and online retailer Amazon.
About 20 percent of Ashkenazi Jews are carriers of a genetic mutation for certain diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Because of genetic drift as well as historical and social factors, these so-called Jewish genetic disorders occur at a higher incidence or almost exclusively in this population, whereas other disorders may be just as common as in other high-risk groups.
The New York-based National Jewish Genetic Consortium (NJGC) recommends that couples with any Jewish ancestry, including interfaith and multi-ethnic couples, get carrier screening prior to marriage for Jewish genetic diseases such as Gaucher, Tay-Sachs disease, spinal muscular atrophy, Canavan disease, Bloom’s syndrome and cystic fibrosis. According to the NJGC, nearly one in three Ashkenazi Jews in the United States is a carrier of at least one of 19 Jewish genetic diseases, and Ashkenazim make up the vast majority of the U.S. Jewish community.
With few exceptions, Sephardic Jews — who trace their roots to the Middle East and North Africa — are generally unaffected by these diseases.
Good Start’s tests will be the first home solutions accompanied by access to board-certified genetic counselors. Anyone interested can order the VeriYou kit and collect a saliva sample at home for testing after activating it online. A licensed physician reviews all orders, which are mailed back to Good Start, with results expected in about two weeks. VeriYou offers easy-to-understand results with greater than 99 percent technical accuracy. A consultation to discuss the results with a board-certified genetic counselor is included in all orders.
“We are committed to broadening access and removing barriers to best-in-class testing for mass clinical markets,” Jeffrey Luber, president and CEO of Good Start, said in a press release. “Healthcare is rapidly changing in a way that enables new delivery models in reproductive health that broaden access and affordability for millions. Central to our commitment to responsible testing, is our inclusion of physician ordering and world-class genetic counseling with every test, and at price points not previously seen in the market.”