History of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

The Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention was founded as the Teratology Society by Drs. F. Clarke Fraser, Josef Warkany and James G. Wilson in 1960 with the first annual meeting in 1961. The purpose of the Society was to foster exchange of information relating to congenital (birth) defects including their nature, cause, mechanism and prevention.

Today, this international Society consists of approximately 700 members specializing in developmental biology and toxicology, reproduction and endocrinology, epidemiology, cell and molecular biology, nutritional biochemistry, and genetics as well as the clinical disciplines of prenatal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, neonatology, medical genetics, and teratogen risk counseling.The Society through its Officers, Council members, and Committees plans the annual meetings and carries out the business related to the interests of its members.

Birth Defects Research (formerly known as Teratology) is the official journal of the Society. It publishes original research and reviews in areas related to the etiology of adverse developmental and reproductive outcome. In particular the journal is devoted to the publication of original scientific research that contributes to the understanding of the biology of embryonic development and the prenatal causative factors and mechanisms leading to adverse pregnancy outcomes, namely structural and functional birth defects, pregnancy loss, postnatal functional defects in the human population, and to the identification of prenatal factors and biological mechanisms that reduce these risks.  The Society has taken public stands on the following subjects: the inadvisably of applying the Delaney clause to animal teratogens, retinoic acid (vitamin A), folic acid, iodine deficiency during pregnancy, pregnancy labeling for prescription drugs,  the developmental toxicity of endocrine disruptors to humans, and other topics. The Society has a code of ethics and guidelines for ethical publication and presentation of scientific information and data.

The nature of the meetings in the early years consisted largely of descriptive and animal studies of various agents with fewer papers on the mechanisms that lead to birth defects. The Society played a role in the establishment of animal studies and regulations for testing pharmaceutical products. In more recent years the predominant studies have turned to the basic pharmacologic, molecular and genetic aspects of congenital defects. The use of in vitro studies especially whole embryo culture as well as special genetic strains of mice are commonly employed. Additionally, epidemiologic studies have also become an important aspect of the annual meetings.For more information about the history of birth defects research and the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, read:

The history of organized teratology in North America
Wilson, J.G. and Warkany, J. (1985), Teratology, 31: 285-296. 

A history of the Teratology Society
Shepard, T.H., Barr,, M., Jr., Brent, R.L., Hendrickx, A., Kochhar, D., Oakley, G. and Scott,, W.J., Jr. (2000), Teratology, 62: 301-316. 

An updated history of the Teratology Society
Shepard, T.H., Barr, M., Jr., Brent, R.L., Hendrickx, A., Kochhar, D., Oakley, G., Scott, W.J., Jr. and Rogers, J.M. (2010), Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology, 88: 263-285. 

The first 60 years: Honoring Teratology's past, a new perspective on the future
Roberts, LG, Lewis, EM. (2020), Birth Defects Research. 112: 903– 913. 

50th Anniversary Video

Hear about the Society’s history and evolution directly from the members themselves. The video below was produced for the Society’s 50 anniversary celebration and gives you an inside look at this dynamic organization.