AlphaBiolabs achieved a UK first by introducing the non-invasive prenatal paternity test at its Warrington laboratory earlier this year. Tony McDonough reports
Drug and alcohol testing specialist AlphaBiolabs is investing £400,000 in additional laboratory equipment to meet soaring demand for its non-invasive prenatal paternity test.
Earlier this year the Warrington firm achieved a UK first by introducing the test at its laboratory. Previously, samples were sent to the US for analysis, leading to delays in customers receiving their DNA results.
Orders have trebled since the company’s initial investment in advanced technology to test samples from the mother and alleged father from as little as six weeks after conception.
AlphaBiolabs provides DNA, drug and alcohol testing services to a client base which includes members of the public, businesses, family and immigration law solicitors, social services, the media and universities.
Until the programme’s demise earlier this year the company regularly provided DNA testing for ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show. It also sells DNA testing kits nationwide through outlets of Liverpool-based retailer Home Bargains.
In addition to anxious pregnant women seeking to learn the identity of their unborn baby’s father, the company has seen growth in demand from local authorities around Britain requiring court-admissible tests for use in child protection and custody cases.
AlphaBiolabs’ latest investment includes technology capable of new-generation DNA sequencing, and instrumentation which amplifies the visibility of DNA segments for analysis.
Testing at AlphaBiolabs’ own lab means results are available within seven working days, with an express service providing the outcome in just four days. Director Rachel Davenport said: “We have seen exponential growth for non-invasive prenatal paternity testing since introducing the service at our lab in March, as awareness has increased and we have been able to shorten the time period for results to be available.
“There is strong demand for people to ascertain paternity at the earliest possible opportunity for many different reasons, and we seem to be reaping the benefits of providing this service.
“The ease of using our nationwide network of sample collectors has made the test more accessible to the wider population.
“In a climate where there is sensitivity over what happens to personal data, there had been a level of discomfort about sending samples outside of Europe, where there would be a certain loss of control over what happened to that data.”
AlphaBiolabs’ test involves taking a blood samples from the mother and a mouth swab sample from the man. The DNA of the adults and the foetal DNA from the unborn baby, obtained from the mother’s bloodstream, are extracted at the lab, where the company’s team of geneticists examine these profiles.
It is possible to determine whether the baby shares the man’s DNA. When the tested man is not the biological father, there will be differences. Previously, invasive methods had to be relied upon to obtain a sample of the unborn baby’s DNA, but they carried the risk of miscarriage.
Under the new method, there is no risk to the unborn baby as a blood sample is only needed from the mother.