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Innovations In Fertility – Meet 8 Femtech Companies Revolutionizing This Space

Innovations In Fertility - Meet 8 Femtech Companies Revolutionizing This Space

About 1 out of 6 couples are struggling to conceive and it can become a very frustrating journey to find the help you need. Most of the time, women have to wait 12 to 18 months before they can have a first appointment with a fertility specialist and in the meantime there was very little that could be done from home, to increase the chances of pregnancy.

Almost 70,000 cycles of IVF are performed every year in the U.K. with the market being worth around £320 million annually. Globally, IVF cycles exceed 2.5 million each year, with 9 in 10 patients reporting feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression – there is a huge and growing demand for better IVF support from regulators, patient groups, and clinics alike.

The current system is also fragmented with multiple appointments, long commutes, and big bills. As Forbes reported last year, “a single IVF cycle can range from $15,000 to $30,000, depending on the center and the patient’s individual medication needs; medications can account for up to 35% of those charges”, and when it comes to egg freezing, on average, patients will spend $30,000 – $40,000 on treatment and storage.

Even though the WHO recognized infertility as a disease and a public health problem, its incidence is consistently increasing. In the U.S., 75% of private insurance policies do not adequately cover infertility, so if you’re on a public insurance plan, it’s extremely unlikely you have any fertility coverage.

Below are eight companies redefining what accessible, affordable and, more than anything, inclusive innovation in fertility care looks like.

Aura Fertility – supporting fertility clinics to provide pioneering whole-person care

Working in healthcare management consulting whilst facing her own traumatic fertility journey, Abi Hannah, CEO and cofounder of Aura Fertility, spotted an opportunity to reimagine IVF support, help women to feel less alone, and improve outcomes.

When Hannah met her cofounder Karen Hanson (later joined by Jo Living), the pair bonded over their fertility challenges and knew that there must be a better way. Between the two of them, they have been through 19 rounds of fertility treatment, across seven clinics, and sadly nine miscarriages. Put simply, Aura is what they wished for when they were going through IVF – the comprehensive patient support app and clinic dashboard that provides evidence-based support for every stage of the fertility treatment journey, helping women to feel less alone and reducing the burden on busy fertility clinics.

“Happily, Karen and I now have four IVF babies between us, so we truly understand the fertility rollercoaster. It’s not an exaggeration to say that our families wouldn’t be where they are without the help of Aura’s world-leading fertility experts. We know first-hand how life-changing the right advice and support can be and are on a mission to make the IVF process more human,” Hannah shares with me.

Aura works to transform the IVF experience by supporting fertility clinics to provide pioneering whole-person care. The platform leverages AI to improve patient experience, psychosocial health, and ultimately fertility success rates. This way, it’s saving clinics time and resources by centralizing key services, whilst exceeding regulatory guidance on patient support. “We are already partnering with leading U.K. fertility clinics including Aria, and now offer a patient comms platform for full clinic integration,” she concludes.

Carrot Fertility – fertility and family-forming benefits provider for employers and health plans

Most people receive mental and physical health benefits through their employers, and even dental and vision, but it stops there. It shouldn’t. Fertility care is a fundamental part of human healthcare. Fertility can impact employees’ mental health, influence career decisions, and can even send people into financial debt. And with one-third of our lives spent at work and the majority of Americans receiving health insurance through their employer, it makes sense that the workplace plays an important part in a support system. This is where the story of Carrot Fertility starts.

77% of respondents to the Carrot’s Fertility at Work survey said they would stay at their company longer if they offered fertility benefits; 88% would even consider changing jobs to access fertility benefits. Fertility and family-forming care could and should be the 4th pillar of employee benefits, much like medical, dental, or vision.

“Most fertility care is not designed to assist (and ultimately cover the cost for) populations starting families that don’t look like one male and one female. In order for most insurance to cover fertility and family-forming services, couples must prove that they have been trying to become pregnant for at least a year, which automatically excludes single people and same-sex couples. I started Carrot to make fertility care accessible and affordable to all regardless of age, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or geography. That has been our mission since day one,” shares Tammy Sun, cofounder and CEO of Carrot Fertility.

Fertility care and family-forming is not a one-size-fits-all experience. That’s where Carrot Plans come in. Carrot Plans are personalized guides with over 200,000 possible combinations of options, each tailored to an individual Carrot member’s specific needs, goals, and health concerns, whether that’s matching with a BIPOC provider, finding an LGBTQ+-inclusive adoption agency, or understanding the legal implications of using donor-assisted reproduction. Carrot Plans are also open to those who are already pregnant, whether or not they used Carrot resources previously. After a Carrot member receives their plan, experts are available to offer unlimited one-on-one support throughout their journey.

Carrot has raised more than $114 million so far and is backed by Tiger Global Management, OrbiMed, U.S. Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, CRV, Precursor Ventures, Maven Ventures, Sound Ventures, and Uncork Capital.

Carrot is also the first fertility benefits provider to offer comprehensive care for employees throughout their entire careers with the addition of menopause and low testosterone support for its members globally. “We’re doubling down on our inclusive mission with the addition of menopause and low testosterone care. Our customers will now have the option to add comprehensive support for menopause and low testosterone as part of their fertility benefits package,” concludes Sun.

FERTI·LILY – a hormone-free conception cup that increases the chances of getting pregnant by 48%

Founded in 2018, FERTI·LILY is the innovative offspring of a collaboration between a medical entrepreneur, who experienced firsthand the frustrations of (not) conceiving, and one of Europe’s leading fertility specialists.

“With FERTI·LILY, we want to empower women and couples on their journey by providing support that requires no hormones, doctors, or invasive procedures, preserving the intimacy and excitement of this very special moment. Our company motto is – a little help, making a little miracle,” shares Robert Stal, founder, and CEO of FERTI·LILY, with me in an email.

This is how the cup works: inserted after intercourse the cup pushes and holds the sperm closer to the cervix allowing 300% more sperm cells to swim through the cervix. The cost of the FERTI·LILY Cup is also not to be dismissed in comparison to the staggering cost of fertility treatments – roughly $45 and reusable for six months.

The second challenge the company decided to tackle is vaginal dryness which, according to one of the industry studies, occurs two times more for women who are trying to conceive than the general population. “Few people know that, but standard lubricants can negatively affect fertility by creating a barrier for sperm. That’s why we developed the FERTI·LILY Conception Gel, a clinically proven sperm-friendly lubricant that helps couples make this journey more pleasurable and mimics the properties of fertile fluids allowing sperm cells to survive and migrate,” adds Stal.

FERTI·LILY’s clinical study about the efficacy of its cup has been published in the Journal of Pregnancy and Newborn Care and has been a game-changer for the company. The JPBNC is an open-access peer-reviewed journal based in the U.S. known for publishing original and scientifically relevant articles for gynecologists and other fertility specialists. With the support of Dr. Grada van den Dool, Chairwoman of the Association of Fertility Doctors in the Netherlands, and Dr. Maarten Wiegerinck, one of Europe’s leading fertility specialists, a prospective study involving 85 women showed that the use of the FERTI·LILY cup for 3 cycles significantly increased pregnancy rates. The study results showed that by using the conception cup, the chances of getting pregnant are 48% higher than expected when compared to industry standard prognostic models.

“Results were even better for couples trying to conceive for over a year, who would be considered clinically infertile,” highlights Stal.

Hertility – at-home testing, diagnosis and aftercare from menstruation through menopause

Healthcare wasn’t designed for women. Hertility is here to change that. Whilst 1 in 3 women will experience a reproductive health condition at some point in their life, female health conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis take an average of 2-8 years to diagnose. And when it comes to fertility, couples have to prove something is wrong before taking action. Now, with Hertility, women can proactively get insight into their hormones and fertility and get support with what to do next, all without leaving the house.

Founded by scientists and powered by an (all female) research team, the company is bringing the latest reproductive science out of the lab and into the homes of as many women as possible. With tailored at-home hormone testing, innovative diagnostics (they can signpost nine of the most common gynecological conditions in just 10 days), and access to a vetted network of gynecological health experts, Hertility have got every woman covered from menstruation through menopause.

“The truth is, while we can somewhat bend biology through treatments in assisted reproduction, time is the most critical factor when it comes to changing our reproductive futures – we need to educate women at a younger age to recognize their fertility and listen to their bodies,” Dr. Helen O’Neill, founder and CEO of Hertility, shares with me.

But Hertility is not just for those looking to conceive – it’s also giving women clarity into what’s going on in their bodies and providing a science-backed eco-system of care to support them, whatever the results. In fact, Dr. O’Neill and her team have helped 64% of their “Hertili-Team community” discover at least one hormone that was out of range and 29% on the journey to getting a diagnosis for a previously undiagnosed reproductive health condition.

To date, the company has raised $5.2 million in funding, with their seed round being led by LocalGlobe – one of the UK’s most prolific seed investors, Venrex, and some key angel investors including former CEO of Bupa, Evelyn Bourke, CEO of Nested, and the unicorn company GoCardless, Matt Robinson.

Mojo – AI-powered, clinical-grade home sperm testing

We’re living through a sperm health epidemic: average sperm counts in the West have declined by 52% in the last four decades, according to the study published in the journal Human Reproduction Update. Yet traditional clinics are bafflingly inconsistent with their results, the process often is uncomfortable and lengthy, with many practitioners still claiming that sperm quality (male fertility factor) is largely irrelevant compared to a woman’s fertility.

“I was experiencing all this myself some years ago that led me to create Mojo. I was diagnosed with a chronic renal issue and advised to test and freeze my own sperm. I couldn’t understand how each different test I got gave me totally different results, and why fertility doctors dismissed the importance of sperm health in the context of conceiving,” starts his story Mo Taha, CEO and cofounder of Mojo, a fertility startup providing 48-hour, at-home, AI-powered home sperm testing.

Taha was a nanotechnology researcher at the École Centrale de Lyon and a family office healthcare services investor before he and his co-founders created Mojo in 2017. Their users, according to Taha, are “everyone with sperm, and their partners”. Around a third of people who purchase their testing kit are actually female.

To date, the company has raised around $5.3 million in funding from investors including Nordic fund Inventure, Privilège Ventures, Crista Galli Ventures, SOSV, Aligned VC, family offices, and some well-known angel investors.

“We want to get people with sperm to understand their own sperm health and its importance in a general fertility sense, and also realize the implications sperm health can have in the context of a person’s health more generally. Feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. People don’t just want to test sperm, but also to reach conception goals,” concludes Taha.

Proov – full-cycle hormone insights

With a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and a career as a scientist since 1999, Amy Beckley, founder and CEO of Proov, has a deep love for understanding how the body works, mainly how our organs talk to each other and what happens when that goes wrong. “By far, the most interesting thing for me is reproductive health and hormones. I got interested in this after a long and painful battle with infertility and recurrent miscarriage,” she admits.

Beckley was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility.” Being unexplained, she was told that IVF is the best option. So she and her husband did two rounds of IVF and were finally blessed with a son (who is now 11). She later found out when trying to conceive her second child that she simply had ovulation dysfunction. “When the treatment for that was a $100 supplement and not invasive IVF, I set out to create better diagnostic solutions to help providers and patients understand the cause of their infertility and get to the solution in a faster and more cost-effective way.”

Proov exists to unlock the power of the menstrual cycle by enabling women to monitor their hormones across their whole cycle, get personalized recommendations, and promote a balanced cycle. A balanced cycle can make women more fertile, and more creative, and reduce the symptoms of menopause. Proov gives women access to their hormones – you simply pee, test, and scan into the app. In 10 minutes your unique hormone pattern will be displayed, as well as a detailed explanation of what it means and the next steps.

“We are the only FDA-cleared and CE-marked at-home test to determine if there is a problem with ovulation. Since the process of ovulation is what makes estrogen and progesterone, if a woman is not ovulating properly, she can have symptoms of hormone imbalance that can affect every aspect of her life. We are the first to give women insights into their hormones completely at home, no blood test or waiting for a lab to analyze their samples,” explains Beckley.

The company has expanded in 2022 to now be available in over 1,100 OB/GYN offices across the U.S. and, with its test, has successfully helped thousands of women avoid costly IVF procedures. They closed a Series A round of $9.7 million last year with the lead investor being Hambrecht Ventures with investments from Portfolia, SteelSky Ventures, LightShip Capital, and Gingerbread Capital.

ScreenMe – supporting those on their fertility journey via access to tailored nutrition and lifestyle advice

After having an extremely difficult journey with her own vaginal, hormonal, and reproductive health, Dr. Golnoush Golshirazi, founder and CEO of ScreenMe, realized there were countless women who also felt they were not listened to, were not provided with insight and explanations about their reproductive health and symptoms, and were not supported with scientific holistic care to take charge of their health, cope with chronic conditions and reduce risk of disease as well as improve chances of success when trying to conceive.

Golshirazi studied natural sciences at Cambridge and specialized in genetics. After struggling with chronic pain, period and vaginal health-related concerns, and being dismissed for over 10 years she was diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 27. It was this painful journey that led her to envision a hybrid healthcare system where women are listened to, are provided with scientific insight into their bodies, and supported with both medical and holistic care no matter where in their journey they are.

“I paid more than I should have to get those things in place and I wanted to make this possible for all women. It should be a right for women to understand their body and receive the care they need, not a privilege,” she shares with me.

This led to the creation of ScreenMe where the vision is a world free of preventable diseases. The company is on a mission to do this by bringing scientific and holistic care together and making it accessible and affordable for women globally. ScreenMe provides at-home testing of women’s hormonal, nutritional and vaginal health through a finger-prick blood test and/or vaginal microbiome test (through a swab). Customers then go on to receive not just their results, but also easy-to-understand medical reports on their ScreenMe app dashboard. They also get consultations with registered practitioners who will help tailor their nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation based on their results and reports, history, symptoms, and goals.

“We are now in the process of partnering with companies as well as clinics and hospitals in the Middle East where we aim to revolutionize women’s health care and raise awareness of the importance of women’s health in society’s health as a whole. At ScreenMe we see ourselves to be the go-to platform for women at all stages of life.”

Selectivity Life – a medical device company taking treatments outside of the fertility clinics

WHO reports that, while assisted reproduction technologies have been available for more than three decades, with more than five million children born worldwide from these interventions such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), these technologies are still largely unavailable, inaccessible, and unaffordable in many parts of the world, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

“At Selectivity, we are focused on universalizing access to fertility treatments by bringing them to patients’ homes,” shares Jonathan Gubspun, founder and CEO of Selectivity Life and a Biomedical Engineer from Argentina. With its patented technology, a biomimetic membrane for sperm selection, Selectivity developed a medical device that allows any OB-GYN to perform intrauterine insemination at his/her office, spreading the access to over 50 million couples (or single mothers) who do not have it.

Spermatozoa (sperm) are the male sex cells that carry a man’s genetic material. They are so tiny that they can’t be seen without a microscope. In a healthy man, one ejaculation usually contains between 40 million and 600 million sperm. “Our technology selects simply and efficiently the healthiest and high motility spermatozoa preserving their DNA integrity. It does not damage the spermatozoa while being selected and also it needs neither another device (as centrifuge) nor chemicals to be applied and considerably reduces the time-effort selection technique,” explains Gubspun.

Having the possibility to sort sperm anywhere, brings to life Selectivity’s ultimate vision and primary goal which is to develop the first at-home intrauterine insemination device. This device would allow every couple (or single mother) to have the possibility to perform a fertility treatment comfortably at home, diminishing stress, anxiety, fear, time, and costs and significantly improving outcomes.

“At the moment, we are launching our sperm selection device in the LATAM region and working on agreements with distributors. On the other hand, we are finishing the home intrauterine insemination device MVP. As Selectivity has been selected as one of the startups in the M2D2 Impact program, we are also working on the future settlement in the U.S. region,” concludes Gubspun.

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