About the Iowa Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

The study area in Iowa includes all 99 counties, representing a total population of more than 3,000,000 people that is increasing each year. Iowa’s population covers over 55,000 square miles with a strong mix of urban and rural residents. This population mix shows differences in personal behaviors, such as smoking and alcohol use, and places Iowans at increased opportunity for exposure to agricultural chemicals and environmental contaminants. These were motivating factors in establishing the Iowa Registry for Congenital and Inherited Disorders (IRCID). Annually, the IRCID monitors more than 40,000 live births and fetal deaths. Each year, over 1500 pregnancies are affected by birth defects in Iowa.

The Iowa Center has expertise in studying personal behaviors, as well as chemicals and contaminants as risk factors for birth defects. The Iowa Center has also been a leader in studying genes that contribute to birth defects. For the BD-STEPS, we will continue to examine the impact of personal behaviors and environmental exposures, along with the influence of genes, on the development of birth defects.

Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Romitti, PhD

Dr. Paul Romitti is a Professor of Epidemiology and Toxicology at The University of Iowa. Dr. Romitti is the Director of the Iowa Registry for Congenital and Inherited Disorders (IRCID) and the Director of the Iowa Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (Iowa Center). He has worked with the IRCID since 1989, initially as a doctoral trainee and later as a National Institutes of Health-sponsored postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Romitti has directed the Iowa Center since 1999 and the ICBDRP since 2002.

Dr. Romitti’s research interests are in conducting studies of environmental exposures and genetic susceptibilities for adverse reproductive outcomes, particularly craniofacial and musculoskeletal defects. He has also conducted a number of investigations related to study methods, as well as long-term follow-up of children with birth defects and genetic disorders to examine treatment outcomes, other conditions they might have, and quality of life.

"Our work with the BD-STEPS in Iowa will continue to span all 99 counties, and our proposed research will bring together national and international collaborators from across the country to identify risk factors for major birth defects. Identifying these risk factors will help us to develop interventions to prevent them."
— Dr. Paul Romitti

Notable Research Findings:

The following are selected examples of important research publications led by the IA Center. 

Beaty TH, Murray JC, Marazita ML, Munger RG, Ruczinski I, Hetmanski JB, Liang KY, Wu T, Murray T, Fallin MD, et al. (2010). A genome-wide association study of cleft lip with and without cleft palate identifies risk variants near MAFB and ABCA4. Nat Genet 42:525-529.

Justice CM, Yagnik G, Kim Y, Peter I, Jabs EW, Ye X, Ainehsazan E, Shi L, Cunningham ML, Kimonis V, et al. (2012). A genome-wide association study identifies susceptibility loci for nonsyndromic sagittal craniosynostosis near BMP2 and within BBS9. Nat Genet 44:1360-1364.

Romitti PA, Lidral AC, Munger RG, Daack-Hirsch S, Burns TL, Murray JC. (1999) Candidate genes for nonsyndromic cleft lip and palate and maternal cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption: evaluation of genotype-environment interactions from a population-based case-control study of orofacial clefts. Teratology 59:39-50.

Rocheleau CM, Romitti PA, Sanderson WT, Sun L, Lawson CC, Waters MA, Stewart PA, Olney RS, Reefhuis J. (2011) Maternal occupational pesticide exposure and risk of hypospadias in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 91:927-936.

Schmidt RJ, Romitti PA, Burns TL, Murray JC, Browne ML, Druschel CM, Olney RS; National Birth Defects Prevention Study. (2010) Caffeine, selected metabolic gene variants, and risk for neural tube defects. Birth Defects Res Part A Clin Mol Teratol 88:560-569.


Contact Information:

Principal Investigator:

Paul Romitti, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology and Toxicology

University of Iowa


Phone: 888-850-8532