Project Baby Deer Supports Genome Testing at Bronson and other Michigan Hospitals

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Published on December 23, 2021

Project Baby Deer Supports Genome Testing for Newborns at Bronson and other Michigan Hospitals

One year after the start of Project Baby Deer in Michigan, rapid whole genome sequencing (rWGS) for critically-ill newborns is now supported by Medicaid coverage. Previously, access to this comprehensive and potentially life-changing test was available only through research grants or philanthropic support.

Bronson Methodist Hospital was the first hospital in Michigan to participate with Project Baby Deer— a statewide rapid whole genome sequencing (rWGS) initiative that is bringing precision medicine to the bedside for pediatric patients—and continues to collaborate statewide with other involved centers at Beaumont, Detroit Medical Center, Sparrow and Spectrum Health.

“As the children’s hospital for southwest Michigan, we are thrilled to be in a position to provide access to rWGS for infants who may benefit,” says Dr. Andrea Scheurer a neonatologist in Bronson Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Scheurer, who is a Southwest Michigan Neonatology, P.C. provider, says “Project Baby Deer is striving for equitable access to testing, regardless of ability to pay or type of insurance thus advocacy for insurer coverage has been a big focus.”

The rWGS Medicaid Policy in Michigan covers infants up to age 1, while generous support from philanthropic donors such as Bronson Health Foundation continue to support testing access for older infants and children. “Dr. Scheurer has been an incredible advocate for our young patients and families to ensure Project Baby Deer is accessible,” says Liz Semaan, executive director, Bronson Health Foundation. “We are proud to partner with and support access to this specialized testing for our neonatal and pediatric patients and families.”

Hospitalized infants and children with an unclear cause of severe illness or a clinical concern for an underlying genetic condition qualify for access to rWGS testing. rWGS is the fastest and one of the most comprehensive genetic tests currently available. Turnaround time for results as fast as two to three days means genomic informed care plans can reach the patient sooner than ever before. Targeted treatments can then improve clinical outcomes and help inform care team and family discussions.

As of November 2021, 89 infants and children in Michigan have benefitted from testing access through Project Baby Deer.

Charissa and Blake Ostrom shared the story of how their daughter, Evelyn, was in the Bronson NICU after being born with several health challenges. rWGS pinpointed the cause of her illness and led doctors to change her treatment. “Genomic testing was a game changer for Evelyn,” she said. “For any parent going through something similar, do not give up.”