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Fertility: Why no one talks about ICI

ICI is being brought back by Béa Fertility in an attempt to level the playing field



Tess Cosad, co-founder & CEO of Béa Fertility

Equal and equitable access to fertility care remains a challenge for the over 48 million couples struggling to conceive. We meet Tess Cosad, co-founder and CEO of Béa Fertility, and deep dive into the world of ICI. 

IVF treatment is booming all over the world and according to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), IVF has even started to play a role in demographic analyses.

Since the world’s first successful cycle, the global IVF market has grown and is currently valued at around US$15bn.

But while IVF and IUI remain the most popular forms of assisted conception, they are not the only ones out there.

Intracervical insemination, known as ICI, is a form of home insemination treatment that, unlike IVF where the egg is fertilised with sperm in a laboratory, uses a silicone cap to hold the sperm against the cervix for an extended amount of time.

“ICI used to be the de facto fertility treatment, but when IVF and IUI came along, it fell out of favour,” says Tess Cosad, co-founder of Béa Fertility.

ICI is now being brought back by Béa in an attempt to level the playing field when it comes to assisted conception and provide access to affordable fertility treatment.

“The human, exciting journey of creating a family often becomes the source of stress, shame, struggle and desperation,” says Cosad. “Our idea is to empower people with something that they can do in the comfort, safety, privacy, intimacy of their home because that family-building journey should start in your home not in the clinic.

“For us, the very nature of the product is such that we hope it is a less stressful experience. In addition to the kit we provide, we’re also building a digital product to support people’s mental health and give them access to coaches who can be there for them and answer their questions.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals struggle with infertility globally.

But while vital for some patients, IVF and similar treatments currently account for less than three per cent of infertility services, deepening global inequalities in fertility care.

“The delta between who is getting IVF and who really is struggling to create a family is so significant because most people can’t afford it,” explains Cosad.

“In the US there are 510 fertility clinics as of this year. That’s about 10 per state which means that some would have to travel for more than 24 hours to get to a fertility clinic.

“Because going through fertility treatment can be deeply stressful, our goal is to take out some of the stress by allowing people to use the kit in the privacy of their home as well as taking out the financial stress.”

Currently, IUI, although less expensive than IVF, is estimated to be between four to six times the cost of ICI.

Analysis suggests that procedures including egg freezing, IVF and surrogacy have become a top workplace perk as companies try to attract talent and remain competitive in a tight labor market.

However, Cosad is hopeful that, by expanding access to fertility care to everybody who needs support, Béa will make a difference in this space.

“The clinics know that they’re not helping enough people,” says the founder. “They’re looking for ways to reach out and support more families and we’re one of those ways.

“We won NIHR funding from the National Institute for Health Research and that is the beginning of us starting to do the trials needed to get into the NHS. But we are also looking at partnering with clinics to be able to support our users if the treatment doesn’t work for them.

“There are so many other countries in the world where there’s a lot of cultural shame and stigma around fertility care and I believe we can really support them.

“We’re launching in the UK next year,” Cosad continues. “Nine months after that, hopefully the first baby will come along and in five years, I hope we will be able to proudly look back at the number of people we’ve helped.”




Sorina Mihaila is the Femtech World editor, covering technology, research and innovation in women's health. Sorina is also a contributor for the neuro-rehabilitation magazine NR Times.


How we can address the gender imbalance in fertility testing

Everyone has heard of the female biological clock, but not many people know that male fertility declines throughout adulthood too



Lily Elsner, co-founder and CEO of Jack Fertility

Although one in six couples globally have difficulty conceiving, infertility remains a woman’s social burden. We need to address male infertility, says Lily Elsner.

Infertility affects 186 million people worldwide and, despite everything society has led us to believe, one-third of infertility cases are caused by male reproductive issues.

Male infertility can be caused by low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Some men may also experience fertility issues due to chronic health problems, illnesses and lifestyle choices.

How come no one talks about it? To date, fertility has been firmly cast as a “woman’s issue”, irrespective of men being half of the fertility equation.

Everyone has heard of the female biological clock, but not many people realise that male fertility declines throughout adulthood too. Research shows that men will generally see a 52 per cent decrease in fertility rate between their early 30s and their mid-to-late 30s.

“Male infertility, although often treatable, is a very taboo subject,” says Lily Elsner, co-founder and CEO of Jack Fertility.

“Because men don’t have the same relationship with their physicians as women do, they often don’t know they could do something about it.”

Culturally, it can also be hard for men to talk about having trouble conceiving as this can be seen as a lack of masculinity.

Research shows that the majority of men (73 per cent) are unlikely to talk about their infertility with others. In fact, 39 per cent are not likely to talk about their infertility at all.

Elsner, however, thinks we can change that. As the woman behind Jack Fertility’s at-home sperm test kit, she thinks talking openly about male infertility could go a long way towards addressing the gender imbalance in fertility testing. 

“The whole point of femtech is to ensure women’s health is prioritised. By opening up the conversation around reproductive health and making it easy to assess male fertility, we can take some of the pressure off of women.

“Some men may not want to talk about their infertility still, but it’s an essential component of creating an equal world for all genders. I am tired of watching women shoulder the majority of infertility’s physical and emotional burden, and seeing men and non traditional families completely neglected in the medical and societal discourse surrounding fertility.”

A test like Jack, Elsner says, could give people that empowerment of having access to their health data and provide them with the tools to be able to make the right decision for them.

“A lot of men think of fertility as static, when really the male body is constantly creating sperm. With Jack, what we are trying to say is, ‘Actually, your fertility massively depends on your current health and chronic illnesses’.

“Our aim is to make it easy and convenient for all men to get reliable results about the status of their fertility, even if they are not considering starting a family. That’s part of why we named the company Jack – it’s cheeky and relatable.”

There are many fertility test on the market, but Elsner doesn’t see that as a bad thing.

“The rise of companies providing at-home sperm testing suggests a growing interest in male reproductive health, but it also signals a shift in attitudes, with fertility being recognised as an issue that affects both men and women equally,” she says.

“There are so many amazing companies out there working on fertility tests, but I think most of them are targeted a little bit further down the funnel. For us, it’s about getting men to take that first important step of getting tested. We just want them to have a chat with Jack.”

Jack Fertility is expected to launch later this year. To find out more, visit

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Partnership to pilot ‘cutting-edge’ embryo selection tool

The partnership is hoped to streamline laboratory operations with the potential future benefit of optimising the embryo selection process



The US fertility technology company Alife Health has teamed up with a network of laboratories to pilot an AI technology for embryo image capture and cataloguing.

The company’s partnership with Ovation Fertility aims to focus on streamlining laboratory operations with the potential future benefit of optimising the embryo selection process.

The technology could enable future “AI-powered” embryo selection.

Alife’s Embryo Assist software promises to help embryologists to create digital records of every embryo, with the added benefit of using the start-up’s clinical decision support algorithm to determine the best embryo for transfer.

Paxton Maeder-York, founder and CEO of Alife, said: “We are thrilled to join forces with Ovation, a leading laboratory network in the country, to showcase the transformative impact of Alife’s technology.

“Through this partnership, we aim to demonstrate how Alife’s advanced technology, powered by AI, can not only optimise clinic workflow, but also set a new standard in the precision and consistency of embryo selection.

“We look forward to contributing to Ovation’s commitment to excellence in fertility care.”

Matthew VerMilyea, vice president of scientific advancement at Ovation, added: “At Ovation, we strive to discover and leverage the most state-of-the-art technologies available to us in order to better improve patient outcomes.

“The Alife Embryo Assist software provides our laboratories with a structured digital approach to a rather manual and cumbersome process.

“I believe that by implementing Alife’s technology, we will see an improvement in lab efficiency and performance, which ultimately will help our network provide the best possible outcomes for every individual hoping to grow their family.”

The Embryo Assist software claims to allow embryologists to capture images of each embryo and streamline the embryo reporting process by eliminating the need to manually transcribe information between systems.

Alife expects the tool to “elevate” laboratory quality-control measures by providing an activity and audit trail for every embryo, viewable in real time.

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Kitazato and IVF2.0 forge groundbreaking collaboration to revolutionise IVF with AI solutions

The collaboration aims to advance real-time sperm selection for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and embryo ranking



Kitazato, a trailblazing Japanese corporation specialising in assisted reproduction products, and IVF2.0, a leader in AI software for assisted reproductive technology (ART), have joined forces in a strategic collaboration.

The partnership aims to advance real-time sperm selection for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and embryo ranking based on ploidy prediction, ushering in a new era for the IVF market.

Under this agreement, Kitazato will leverage its multi-national distribution network to introduce standardised reproducible data-driven decision-making to IVF laboratories in many regions of the world through IVF2.0’s software.

IVF2.0’s suite of AI tools, including sperm selection (SiD) and embryo selection (ERiCA), assists embryologists in making critical choices to optimize fertility outcomes.

Mr Futoshi Inoue, president and CEO of Kitazato, expresses enthusiasm, stating: “Partnering with IVF2.0 demonstrates our commitment to innovation. We embrace technologies that aim to boost success rates, standardize procedures, and democratize fertility treatment for all.”

Professor Andrew Drakeley, co-founder and board chair of IVF2.0, emphasises the significance of the collaboration.

He said: “Our bond with Kitazato, a prestigious company with world-class products, underscores the growing need for implementing AI tools in IVF clinics globally. This marks a substantial step in the right direction.”

Kitazato, Kitazato – Quality Results for Life (, renowned for delivering quality products in assisted reproduction, aligns with IVF2.0’s mission to enhance IVF outcomes through AI.

IVF2.0’s innovative software platform employs AI and computer vision technology to elevate key steps in the IVF process.

Learn more at IVF 2.0 (

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