Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

This startup is making at-home fertility treatment affordable

Fertility treatment is infamously tough to access. While one in seven couples in the UK faces infertility challenges, it is estimated that less than five per cent of these can get treatment. Because of cuts to funding and stringent rules on who can be treated, just 35 per cent of IVF is funded by the NHS, and increasingly the field is dominated by expensive private clinics. For lesbian couples, who have to use fertility treatments to have children using donor sperm, the problem is even worse.

One British startup wants to change that. Béa Fertility, co-founded by David O’Rourke and Tess Cosad, are launching what they call the first at-home fertility treatment after netting a $1m (£700,000) in pre-seed funding in April. The aim is to make fertility treatment accessible to those locked out of the system. Béa’s kits, to be delivered through the post, will include pregnancy tests, fertility trackers and sperm donation pots, alongside its main product, an intracervical insemination (ICI) device – an insertion apparatus is used to place this silicone cup filled with sperm onto the cervix, where it stays for four to 12 hours.

“I’m a clinical embryologist, so I worked on Harley Street for a long time,” explains O’Rourke. “And a tiny amount of people got the opportunity to sit in front of me. That was something I could only do for so long before I didn’t feel comfortable with it anymore.” Tackling that issue led him to work on an at-home device to “crack open” access. It was after three years of R&D and over 90 prototypes that O’Rourke connected with Cosad in late 2019, a marketing specialist with experience working with several technology companies. “I knew I was looking for something else,” Cosad says. “And working on something that drives [fertility] access fits right in my wheelhouse.”

Béa’s technology, ICI, is a long-established conception strategy, but it has been increasingly replaced by clinical choices such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Intrauterine Fertilisation (IUI). “A lot of papers were produced around ICI and IUI documenting very similar efficacy rates,” explains O’Rourke. Béa says it expects its ICI device to deliver the same kind of success rate as IUI – 10-20 per cent on the first cycle – at a fifth of the cost of a single IUI treatment, typically around £1,500.

Fertility treatments are typically effective after multiple rounds, but the high cost of IVF and IUI often makes that unaffordable. Béa says that the lower cost of its kit will make it easier to use repeatedly, thus bringing up the potential success rates – it predicts as high as 60 per cent after several months.

“If you look at a lot of the innovation in the fertility sector today, it’s very easy to innovate digitally,” explains Cosad, citing the abundance of cycle-tracking apps, hormone testing and more that dominates the booming fertility-tech scene. “We’re going right to the centre of the problem.” 

That hardware focus comes with challenges, such as stringent regulation for medical devices such as Béa’s, but Cosad and O’Rourke expect to get UK and EU medical clearance by the end of this year, allowing them to fully launch by the beginning of 2022. As infertility rates have skyrocketed in recent decades, the Béa team is sure the issue isn’t going away. 

“The problem is only going in one direction,” Cosad says. “We need more treatment options.” 

More great stories from WIRED🌡️ Sign-up to WIRED’s climate briefing: Get Chasing ZeroWe finally know the true toll of all those bad SlacksA strange Covid-19 origin theory is gaining tractionHow to lose that lockdown weight the right waySupercharge your chats with these WhatsApp tricksThe draconian rise of internet shutdownsA radical plan to treat Covid’s mental health falloutThe 100 hottest startups in Europe in 2021🔊 Subscribe to the WIRED Podcast. New episodes every Friday

This article was originally published by WIRED UK

Most PopularScienceWatch Neuralink’s First Human Subject Demonstrate His Brain-Computer Interface

Emily Mullin

Backchannel8 Google Employees Invented Modern AI. Here’s the Inside Story

Steven Levy

SecurityHackers Found a Way to Open Any of 3 Million Hotel Keycard Locks in Seconds

Andy Greenberg

GearThe Omega x Swatch Snoopy MoonSwatch Has Landed

Jeremy White

Popular Articles