Foster City-based startup VitaPath is working on a cheek-swab test for women that detects the genetic mutation that causes spina bifida, a birth defect that strikes around 1% of babies born in the U.S. and is epidemic in some third-world countries.
By the time it’s detected in the fetus, it can’t be cured, but women who take the test can prevent it by taking large doses of folic acid before they get pregnant, said CEO Bruce Cohen. Folic acid makes the defective gene function correctly.
VitaPath’s test is based on research done at UC Berkeley by Jasper Rine, a professor who studies the frequency and functions of mutations in genes that perform central metabolic functions. Some of these