SINGAPORE – From July 1, Singaporean couples who wish to conceive but are worried about passing on serious inheritable diseases to their child will receive government funding support of up to 75 per cent to test for genetic disorders in embryos in the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) process.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday (June 30) that the funding is for two types of pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT), which are done on embryos created via IVF and would reduce the risk of genetic diseases being passed on.

The first type of test, known as PGT-M, screens for common and rare disorders, such as the blood disorder beta thalassemia and spinal muscular atrophy.

The second type of test, PGT-SR, checks for chromosomal structural abnormalities, which may manifest themselves in developmental delays or learning disabilities in conditions such as Down syndrome.

The tests cost $11,000 to $31,000 each, with that for rare disorders costing the most as it involves more preparatory work. The funding covers the tests and the embryo biopsy done by an assisted reproduction centre.

For instance, a Singaporean couple can get funding of up to $17,100 for the PGT process for common disorders and up to $31,420 for the process to test for rare disorders.

On average, 40 to 50 couples a year are expected to benefit from the scheme, said Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, at a doorstop interview in the National University Hospital (NUH).

“That makes for 40 to 50 couples who have been relieved of the potential pain and difficulty of bringing up a child that has genetic defects,” she said.