Program Highlights

Education Courses

Separate registration is required for the Education Courses.

Education Course 1

The Role of the Microbiome in Normal and Abnormal Development
Organized by the Education Committee

The microbiome is constantly changing, and several variables affect its development and content. Features of the intestinal microbiota can affect the development of the brain, immune system, and lungs, as well as body growth. This course will explore the role of the microbiome in development.

Education Course 2

Stem Cells: The Role and Promise in Birth Defects Research
Organized by the Education Committee

This course will explore the role of stem cells in birth defects research.

Lunch and Learn Mini Course

Climate Change: Heat and Wildfires
Organized by the Education Committee

This course will provide examples of how changes to the climate are affecting fetal development.

Special Lectures

Josef Warkany Lecture

This lecture recognizes Josef Warkany’s contributions to BDRP. Dr. Warkany was the first person to demonstrate that exposure to environmental chemicals is responsible for the production of congenital malformation. His early studies culminated in the formulation of the scientific principles of teratology. This award recognizes a scientist who has significantly contributed to the field over the course of their career.

Robert L. Brent Lecture: Teratogen Update

This lecture recognizes Robert L. Brent’s contributions to the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention and particularly for the implementation of the “Teratogen Update.” The purpose of the Robert L. Brent Lecture is to facilitate the discussion of new and old teratogens during the Annual Meeting.

F. Clarke Fraser New Investigator Award

This award honors F. Clarke Fraser, one of the founding members of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, for his many contributions to the field of developmental toxicology. The award recipient must be an active member of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention with evidence of a successful, independent research career in birth defects research.

James G. Wilson Publication Award

This award honors James G. Wilson, one of the founding Society members, and is presented in recognition of the best paper accepted or published in the journal Birth Defects Research during the prior year. The dual purpose of the award is to provide recognition to the author(s) of the best paper and to encourage authors trained in various disciplines to submit high-quality papers to Birth Defects Research.

Patricia Rodier Mid-Career Award for Research and Mentoring

This award honors the legacy of Dr. Patricia Rodier, a past President of the Developmental Neurotoxicology Society and a Council member of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention. The award is presented during the annual meetings of the Developmental Neurotoxicology Society and Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention. The awardee will give a presentation related to his/her research at a jointly sponsored session at the annual meetings. It is intended that the presentation will serve as a demonstration of independent mid-career research in neurobehavioral teratology, birth defects, or other related fields.

Agnish Fellowship

This award recognizes Narsingh Agnish’s contributions to the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, particularly the implementation of the Education Courses. The Narsingh Agnish Fellowship is awarded to a long-standing member of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention who has made a major contribution to education in the field of teratology or a related discipline.

Keynote Lecture

BDRP and European Teratology Society Exchange Lecture


(Joint with DNTS)

Maternal and offspring demographic characteristics are associated with birth defects prevalence and outcomes, but the causes of these disparities are poorly understood and little discussed. This session will address the epidemiology of congenital anomalies in minoritized populations. How factors such as race, ethnicity, insurance status, neighborhood characteristics, and public health policy relate to the prevalence of birth defects and to survival among affected infants and children will be discussed. Recommendations for leveraging birth defect surveillance data to understand and mitigate birth defect disparities will be provided. The session is intended for researchers, clinicians, and public health professionals interested in birth defects or the health outcomes of people belonging to minoritized populations.

(Organized by the Public Affairs Committee)

Prevention of birth defects begins with understanding the exposures and biochemical pathways that lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes. This symposium will include a discussion of widespread exposures and their interaction with signaling molecules that are crucial to normal embryonic and fetal development. Session speakers will discuss the role of common exposures on specific pathways associated with neural development and function as well as other critical organ systems. A variety of model systems will be reviewed with a discussion of their value and how data collected can be used in risk assessment and regulation.


We have seen incredible progress in our understanding of how genes and environmental factors impact facial variation, from the subtle features that give us our unique appearance to life-altering malformations. This is due in part to groundbreaking advances in imaging, computational modeling, and genome-altering technologies. In this interdisciplinary symposium, we examine the complex forces that give rise to facial morphology and dysmorphology—specifically orofacial clefting.

(Joint with DNTS)
Organized by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workgroup

Spina bifida (SB) is the most frequently encountered neural tube defect (NTD). Up to 70% of NTDs are attributed to genetic factors, while the intrauterine environment tips the balance to neurulation failure in at-risk individuals. Despite aggressive campaigns for folic acid (FA) supplementation and fortification of the food supply in over 85 nations, there are substantial gaps in understanding the risks and mechanisms that underlie SB. These gaps limit efforts to find more effective treatment and prevention going beyond FA. Indicators for a genetic component are many, and while NTDs can be familial after one SB-affected pregnancy, the recurrence risk is 1 in 20 and even after two affected pregnancies, the recurrence risk does not rise above 10%, strongly arguing against a monogenic causation. Pharmaceutical compounds including anti-seizure medications have long been known as risk factors for SB, more recent concerns with anti-retroviral drugs have focused attention on the need for continued vigilance at home and abroad. Finally, the impact of fetal surgery to mitigate some of the comorbidities associated with SB are more widely accessible and the opportunity to optimize outcomes is well within our reach.

Organized by the Science Committee

The placenta is a critical organ of fetal origin existing only during pregnancy. It serves as the exchange network between the mother and developing fetus, mediating the transfer of nutrients, oxygen, blood, waste, and pharmaceutical and environmental chemicals. Proper development and function of the placenta is critical for fetal growth and the health of the mother. Indeed, many adverse pregnancy outcomes are due to placental insufficiency or dysfunction, a condition during which the placental function is limited or deteriorated, leading to reduced inappropriate transplacental transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Placental insufficiency can lead to pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth retardation, preterm labor, and other adverse outcomes during pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is on the rise in industrialized countries and may affect 10% of pregnancies, with an even higher percentage in women of color. Toxicological and epidemiological evidence shows that the placenta is vulnerable to environmental insults, but new approaches are needed to advance our knowledge of the mechanisms and critical pathways leading to adverse outcomes. This symposium brings together experts that have developed advances in the models and techniques for studying environmental impacts on placental, as well as novel advances in the pathways that may lead to placental dysfunction and pregnancy complications or effects on the newborn.


Oligonucleotides represent a novel pharmacotherapeutic drug class. While based on the specificity of Watson-Crick base pairing, construct (single- and double-stranded) and chemical modifications vary and result in distinct advantages but also specific challenges. Single-stranded antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) were the first in this drug class. More recent are small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), with the first siRNA approval in 2018. Oligonucleotides have both small molecule and biotherapeutic attributes and there are no class-specific ICH or FDA guidance documents to provide a clear blueprint for nonclinical safety testing, including for developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) evaluations. Currently, these compounds are regulated as small molecules, but certain compound characteristics aligning with that of biologics raise the need to evaluate if a traditional small molecule DART assessment is appropriate. This symposium considers the application of DART principles to fit attributes of ASOs, siRNAs, and other oligonucleotide therapeutics and using case studies, will highlight gaps and challenges associated with determining the most appropriate strategies to account for potential risk to a varied patient population and spectrum of disease conditions. Overall recommendations from a fall 2023 HESI workshop on DART Strategies for Oligonucleotides will be presented.


Multidisciplinary Research Needs Workshop

The Multidisciplinary Research Needs Workshop provides a forum for informal discussion on current and emerging topics in birth defects research to facilitate collaboration and identify ways that BDRP might contribute to progressing these topics.


(Separate Registration Required)
Organized by the Student Affairs Committee

The Professional Development Workshop on Science Communication is designed for beginning and experienced scientists and will provide advice and techniques on how to effectively communicate complex scientific concepts, research, and the impacts of that research. Attendees will learn key attributes of an “elevator pitch” to simplify complicated science for short and effective communication. Practical exercises will be included to develop key messages and adjust the delivery of a presentation based on the audience and purpose. This workshop is organized by the Student Affairs Committee. Attendees of all career stages are encouraged to participate. Separate registration is required to attend this workshop. Trainees may register at no additional charge, and other attendees pay a nominal fee.


Neuropathology evaluation of the brain, central and peripheral nervous system (CNS/PNS) tissues is a key element of developmental neurotoxicology assessments for studies of chemicals as well as certain pharmaceuticals being developed for pediatric patients. However, the extent of assessments required can vary substantially depending upon the nature of the test material and consequent regulatory requirements. Pharmaceuticals intended for young patients may be administered for brief periods during development or chronically through adulthood. The mechanism of action of these products is often well understood and the dose achieved in the brain and CNS/PNS can often be accurately determined depending on the route of administration, treatment duration, and known total dose. In contrast, industrial, agricultural, and environmental chemical doses can vary significantly, and often little is known about the timing and potential cumulative exposure during development. As such, the requirements for sampling, processing, and neuropathological evaluations for these chemical substances may be substantively different. The workshop introduction will present typical guideline studies that require neuropathology and the requirements for expanded neuropathological evaluations in juvenile animal studies for pharmaceuticals versus developmental neurotoxicology studies for chemicals. The three core presentations will present the development of the mammalian nervous system, methods for standard and specialized neuropathology analyses, common test article-related findings and their interpretation (e.g., Olney lesions), and results that may trigger the need for expanded neurohistopathology evaluations such as special neurohistological stains and/or brain morphometry. The session will be followed by a Panel Discussion, with regulatory representatives from the chemical and pharmaceutical areas to help address audience questions pertaining to neuropathology considerations.

Platforms and Posters


Organized by the Student Affairs Committee

Special platform session on Sunday, June 23, showcasing the future of the field.


Three finalists selected from the abstract pool will present their research in this special platform session on Sunday, June 23. The BDRP Innovator Award recognizes innovative and translational research at the intersection of at least two of the following areas: basic science, new technologies, clinical research, policy, and outreach.


This platform session will feature short presentations of attendees’ current research and will provide an opportunity for live Q&A.


Attendees present their abstracts during the poster sessions of the meeting. The poster sessions provide a relaxed atmosphere to interact with both trainees and established scientists while viewing the latest birth defects research. Poster Session 1 will take place on Sunday, June 23, from 6:00 pm until 7:30 pm and Poster Session 2 will take place on Monday, June 24, from 5:30 pm until 7:00 pm.

Special Events

Warkany Tea

This event honors Josef Warkany, one of the founders of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention and one of the first researchers to show that factors in the environment could cause birth defects. Dr. Warkany helped to develop guidelines for the field of teratology, the study of birth defects. The Warkany Tea provides and place and time for Annual Meeting attendees to network and discuss their research, the foundation of the Society. The Warkany Tea will take place on Wednesday, June 26.

Student Career Event

The Student and Postdoctoral Fellows Career Event is a great networking opportunity that will take place on the evening of Sunday, June 26. This event is open to all trainee attendees of the BDRP and DNTS annual meetings. As you prepare for the next phase in your professional career, we offer you this opportunity to meet your fellow students and postdoctoral fellows and to interact with scientists from academia, government, and industry while enjoying drinks and dessert. This is also an opportunity for you to discuss your future and the various career paths available to you.

Closing Celebration

Once the scientific sessions have ended, it is time to celebrate the exchange of scientific ideas and enjoy both new and old friendships formed at the Annual Meeting.