Program Highlights

Education Courses

Separate registration is required for the Education Courses.
Agenda Details to be provided.

Session I

Craniofacial Morphogenesis and Teratogenesis (3 Hour Course)

Craniofacial development is an intricate and complex series of events that requires several signaling pathways and morphogenetic movements that commence early in utero. This course will begin with an overview of craniofacial embryology and development, followed by presentations on control and dysregulation of craniofacial development including genetic and environmental factors that play a role, focusing on certain birth defects, and animal models commonly used to study such defects. The session will wrap up with an overview of how craniofacial abnormalities are diagnosed and managed in clinical practice.

Session 2

The Development and Disorders of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract (3 Hour Course)

This course will focus on the development of the GI system, associated abnormalities, and their management. Topics addressed will include the embryology of the GI system development including the timeline of important events in embryo-fetal development, postnatal development of the GI system, GI diseases and their investigation using in-vitro and in-vivo models, GI system teratology focusing on pathogenesis of common GI birth defects and environmental exposures, and the clinical management of developmental disorders of the GI system.

Session 3

Single-Cell RNA Sequencing in Understanding Normal and Abnormal Development (90 Minute Mini Course)

Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) is an increasingly powerful tool for the analysis of development as well as normal and disease processes. In contrast to gene expression studies using bulk RNA samples, scRNA-seq enables the molecular distinction of all cell types within a complex population matrix. The purpose of this mini-course is to provide an introduction to scRNA-seq technology, an overview of the application of scRNA-seq approaches to address problems or questions involving normal and abnormal development as well as developmental toxicity, and to explore the challenges and considerations of this technology.

Special Lectures

Josef Warkany Lecture

This lecture recognizes Josef Warkany’s contributions to BDRP. Dr. Warkany was the first person to demonstrate that exposures to environmental chemicals are responsible for 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 of teratology over his/her career. This year’s lecture will be presented by Peter Wells, University of Toronto on Thursday, June 24.

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. This year’s Robert L. Brent Lecturer is Sonja A. Rasmussen, University of Florida College of Medicine who will be present during the virtual annual meeting on Thursday, June 24.

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. This year’s award recipient is Vijaya Kancherla, Emory University. This year’s award will be presented during the virtual annual meeting on Friday, June 25.

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. This year’s award will be presented during the virtual annual meeting on Friday, June 25.

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. Michael T. Williams, Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation is this year’s award recipient, he will present on during the virtual annual meeting on Friday, June 25.

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. This year’s recipient will make a presentation during the virtual annual meeting on Friday, June 25.

Keynote Lecture

This year’s Keynote lecturer is Carleigh Krubiner, Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC and associate faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Her research focuses on ethical issues surrounding the equitable development and delivery of health interventions in low and middle-income settings. For the past several years, Dr. Krubiner has co-led work focusing on how epidemic vaccine development and deployment can be more responsive to the health interests of pregnant women, with more recent work focusing on COVID-19 vaccine R&D and distribution. Her lecture will take place on Monday, June 28.

Bdrp and European Teratology Society Exchange Lecture

The annual Exchange Lecture will focus on the Coronavirus (US vs. EU perspective). This lecture will take place on Monday, June 28.



Integration of mechanistic evidence as part of a human health hazard evaluation can inform biological plausibility and human relevance of chemical-induced toxicity from in vivo and/or in vitro experimental models. Existing and emerging methods (such as model-of-action (MoA) analyses, adverse outcome pathways (AOPs), and key characteristics (KCs) approaches) have been proposed to facilitate the identification and integration of diverse lines of evidence in systematic reviews of environmental chemicals. The objective of this symposium is to provide the audience with a state of the science on methods, frameworks, and tools applied to identify, screen, and integrate toxicological and mechanistic evidence as part of a systematic review and hazard evaluation of potential reproductive toxicants. The proposed talks will cover emerging tools and approaches used by government agencies, academia, and/or the private sector as well as case studies demonstrating the implementation of new and existing methods.

(Joint with DNTS)

Community water fluoridation, the controlled addition of fluoridation chemicals to municipal drinking water for the prevention of tooth decay, is widespread in North America. Recent evidence suggests that fluoride exposure may be associated with adverse health effects including effects on brain development. The potential health effects of fluoride at exposure levels that are typical to the North American population are unclear. The aim of this symposium is to consider recent evidence for health effects of both pre- and postnatal fluoride exposure. The symposium will review the past and current guidelines of use for fluoride in prevention of dental caries. We will present findings from the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) pregnancy cohort in Canada on whether fluoride exposure in pregnancy, infancy, and childhood is associated with poorer intellectual abilities among pre-school-aged children. We will present the results of a systematic review conducted by the National Toxicology Program on fluoride exposure and neurodevelopmental and other cognitive effects from the human epidemiologic and animal literature. Finally, research on developmental fluoride exposure and kidney and liver function, sleeping patterns and metabolic outcomes among adolescents in the United States as measured in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2013–2016 will also be presented. This symposium emphasizes critical periods of exposure, including potential risks associated with the use of fluoridated water for infant formula feeding. The safety of community water fluoridation will be discussed in the context of contemporary exposures to fluoride.


An estimated 125 million pregnancies per year are at risk of malaria around the world and as such pregnant women represent a large proportion of the affected population. For both mother and child malaria is potentially life-threatening. Risk factors are maternal anemia, premature labor and poor birth outcomes which are associated with a negative impact on early childhood development. There are very few approved therapeutic options for pregnant women. Data capture on safety and efficacy in pregnancy or birth outcomes is challenging for many national health systems. There is a need for effective, safe, and affordable antimalarials for pregnant and lactating women. This symposium will describe current international strategic initiatives at the cutting-edge of laboratory research, clinical front line to tackle this neglected disease in an under studied patient population.

Organized by the Public Affairs Committee

Legalization of cannabis in many areas worldwide raises concerns over potential health impacts of its increased use. Characterizing the role of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) during development is key to understanding mechanisms involved. Data indicate that Cannabis and particularly Δ9-THC, can interfere with the ECS’ role in many critical developmental events. Epidemiologic studies have reported adverse effects of cannabis on viability, prematurity, fetal growth, and many aspects of neurodevelopment. Findings in zebrafish, mammalian test species, and humans are all generally aligned. Mechanistic studies provide evidence for the biological plausibility of reported apical effects. Epigenetic studies provide correlational evidence for how Δ9-THC may affect neurodevelopment, as well as how subsequent generations may be adversely affected. After gestational and/or paternal exposure, increased proclivity to addiction, possibly mediated through epigenetic mechanisms, has also been reported in offspring. This symposium will discuss recent advances in the long-term molecular, epigenetic, electrophysiological, and behavioral consequences of prenatal, perinatal, and adolescent exposure to cannabis/delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Insights from human, animal, and in vitro studies will be presented. There is an emerging need to better understand the risks of cannabis use during pregnancy and lactation in the context of global legalization of cannabis for medicinal or recreational use.


There is continued unmet medical need for comprehensive information to support the use of prescription medicines in pregnant and lactating women. To date, most medicines come to market without consideration of these populations, and typical post marketing surveillance efforts are inadequate to provide meaningful prescribing information in a timely manner. Accordingly, PRGLAC was launched in 2017 to help address these gaps. However, toxicology was largely devoid from this workstream. To bolster these efforts, this symposium is designed to review the nonclinical considerations for inclusion of pregnant/lactating women in clinical trials. The nonclinical experience with existing medications on the market for pregnant/lactating women will be reviewed. This will be followed by speakers discussing what toxicology studies can be done differently and/or earlier to provide appropriate information to support risk assessment. This will include consideration of species, dose regimen, toxicokinetics, placental transfer, and in vitro models. The last speaker will discuss the use and communication of nonclinical data for HCP and women.

(Joint with DNTS)

Up to 10% of children exposed in utero to alcohol (ethanol) exhibit anatomical malformations and functional deficits like neurodevelopmental disorders, termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). This symposium presents data from animal models and humans revealing mechanisms that underlie these disorders and determine individual risk. The first speaker will discuss the involvement of reactive oxygen species, DNA oxidation and repair in neurodevelopmental deficits initiated by fetal exposure to ethanol in mouse models. The second speaker will focus upon epigenetic mechanisms, and particularly microRNAs (miRNAs), in humans and human trophoblast cell lines, in ethanol teratogenesis. The third speaker will discuss the role of altered sex- and strain-dependent DNA methylation in neural stem cells in FASD. The final speaker will discuss studies in humans and zebrafish linking molecular and cellular changes caused by in utero ethanol exposure to postnatal metabolic syndrome. These insights may facilitate the development of diagnostic biomarkers for high-risk individuals, and novel strategies for mitigation.


The symposium explores possible refinements to toxicity testing for potential endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The idea for this symposium was generated from preparation of the final report of the Consortium Linking Academic and Regulatory Insights on Bisphenol A Toxicity (CLARITY-BPA), which was an effort to identify technologies and endpoints that could add more sensitivity to detecting endocrine active chemicals in guideline toxicity studies. This symposium will present a summary of findings of the CLARITY-BPA program and identify technologies used among the studies that could be useful for more sensitive detection of endocrine disrupting effects. The second presentation will provide an example of new technologies that are sensitive at detecting hormone disruption using bisphenol A as a case study. The third presentation will describe the current efforts to screen for endocrine activity of chemicals using in vitro estrogen and androgen receptor assays and will explore assays to detect other endocrine activities. Finally, the last presentation will demonstrate how the investigation (hypothesis-driven) research and in vitro/mechanistic studies are currently being integrated into hazard identification evaluations for endocrine disrupting chemicals.

(Joint with OTIS)

The 21st Century Cures Act established PRGLAC to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding gaps in knowledge and research on safe and effective therapies for pregnant women and lactating women. PRGLAC was tasked with identifying these gaps and reporting its findings back to the Secretary. In Europe, ConcePTION is a project of the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a private-public partnership with the goal of providing evidence-based information on the safety of medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Both initiatives are intended to reduce uncertainties about the risk/benefit of using medicines during pregnancy and lactation. This symposium is intended to provide members with updates on the status of each program, priorities, future steps by each initiative to implement recommendations to reduce data gaps and identify opportunities for cross-cutting scientific advocacy.


More than two-thirds of natural gas and nearly 60% of crude oil in the United States is produced by hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." Mountaintop coal mining has affected more than 1.5 million acres in central Appalachia since the 1970s with ~21,000 more acres affected each year. This massive extraction of fossil fuels has raised concerns about impacts on reproductive health in communities where socio-economic factors often lead to health disparities. This symposium will include recent data from human and animal studies indicating an increased risk of structural birth defects including congenital heart defects, preterm birth, maternal stress, and endocrine disruption. Researchers will discuss the challenges inherent in studying complex mixtures in both affected communities and in the laboratory with recommendations for designing future studies.


Multidisciplinary Research Needs Workshop

The Research Needs Workshop, first held at the 2018 meeting, is intended to provide meeting attendees an opportunity to participate in breakout discussions on emerging and progressing topics in birth defects research and to define specific research needs. This year’s workshop will include progress in opioids research (follow-on to 2018 workshop and update on a newly funded proposal as part of FDA’s perinatal Health Center of Excellence), in vitro and in vivo research initiatives on the placenta, modeling and bioinformatics, and recommendations from the Task Force on Research Specific to Pregnant Women and Lactating Women (PRGLAC).


Organized by the Membership Committee and Student Affairs Committee

This workshop provides information and discussion on topics that are of interest to the membership at large. The topic for this year's workshop will address career options for trainees, career challenges, changing professional paths mid-career, and balancing career and family. The sessions will discuss the difficulties and rewards encountered when making career related decisions, with the goal of providing direction, information, and support for members encountering these issues.

Current Topics and Updates for Pregnancy Registries Workshop


Current topics and updates for pregnancy registries including issues of enrollment timing, comparison prevalence rates, recruitment strategies, inclusion of minor malformations, comparison group issues, and database vs. registry studies.


Organized by the Science Committee

The US EPA recently announced that mammalian testing will be reduced by 30% in 2025 and discontinued starting 2035. Promising alternatives to animal tests may supplant or replace traditional test methods for developmental toxicity, utilizing new approach methodologies (NAMs) such as in vitro profiling combined with vast biological understanding. This workshop will address new data-driven approaches that exploit cell-based and nonmammalian animal platforms for developmental hazard assessment. These systems recapitulate developmental pathways and processes with a battery of assays for in vitro data collection that can be translated to in silico modeling of pregnancy and development. The workshop will address research needs to achieve the same level of sensitivity as whole animal toxicity testing by 2035. Best practices for assay validation and translation to human health risk assessment will be raised in the panel discussion.

Platforms and Posters


Organized by the Student Affairs Committee

Eight graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have been selected to compete for the prestigious Wilson Presentation Awards in this special platform session on Thursday, June 24, showcasing the future of the field.


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


Three finalists selected from the abstract pool will present their research in this special platform session on Wednesday, June 30. 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.


Electronic posters will be available online throughout the virtual meeting and for a period of time following the meeting. Attended virtual poster sessions will provide attendees with the opportunity to interact with poster presenters in real time.

Special Events


On Thursday, June 24 from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm Eastern (US), join us for the virtual President’s Welcome Reception. Attendees will be shuffled through several small groups to catch up and make plans to connect one-on-one.

On Monday, June 28 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm Eastern (US), the Student Affairs Committee will host a virtual Trivia Night. Space is limited for this event.

On Tuesday, June 29 at 10:00 am Eastern (US), new and prospective members are encouraged to attend a Meet and Greet hosted by the Membership Committee to network and learn more about the Society and ways to get involved.

On Wednesday, June 30 from 12:00 noon to 12:30 pm Eastern (US), break out your favorite mug as we gather to celebrate the Society’s virtual Warkany Tea.

On Wednesday, June 30 from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm Eastern (US), join us for the BDRP 40th Annual Volleyball Game, A Virtual NETworking Event, a creative twist on the Society’s Annual Volleyball Game, now in its 40th year!

Closing Session: Award Announcements and Annual Business Meeting

On Thursday, July 1 from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm Eastern (US), attend the Awards Presentation and Annual Business Meeting to find out who won this year’s BDRP Innovator Award and trainee awards and to learn about the business of your scientific society!

Make sure to use your smartphone or a computer outfitted with a webcam and microphone for these special events!