On October 24, 2015, Dr. Diana W. Bianchi, Executive Director of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center, was named the 2015 recipient of the Neonatal Landmark Award by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This prestigious award was presented to her at the 2015 AAP National Conference in Washington DC. It is given annually by the AAP’s Section on Perinatal Pediatrics to an individual for recognition of a landmark contribution to a specific area of neonatology.
“Dr. Bianchi was chosen based on her discovery of fetal cells and fetal DNA in the maternal circulation and its translation into a useful and non-invasive approach for testing of fetal genetic abnormalities in perinatal medicine: non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT),” the award statement said.
The statement then recounted the history and significance of Dr. Bianchi’s scientific discoveries. “The story of Dr. Bianchi’s scientific journey did not begin with the isolation of free fetal DNA in maternal serum, but with the identification of fetal cells in maternal blood (1979) and the isolation of fetal DNA from fetal erythrocytes isolated from maternal blood (1990). The goal of a physician who does biomedical research is typically in its translation to clinical practice. Dr. Bianchi’s studies of fetal DNA in the maternal circulation have led to the concept of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) for fetal aneuploidies, which has revolutionized prenatal care. She is the holder of numerous patents for this technology, which has not only reduced the need for the more invasive approach of amniocentesis but has also done so with greater accuracy and fewer errors. It is small wonder then that on a nearly daily basis in the NICU we are counseling families or managing patients who have benefited from prenatal screening by NIPT.”