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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

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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 jackfertility.co.uk.

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.

Fertility

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

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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

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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 (kitazato-ivf.com), 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 (ivf20.ai)

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Future Fertility announces new strategic partnership with Eugin Group Spain

Future Fertility’s Deep Learning model can evaluate each egg’s unique likelihood of developing into a healthy embryo

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Future Fertility, the pioneer in AI-powered oocyte quality assessment, has announced a new strategic partnership with Eugin Group’s Spain-based fertility clinics.

Under this agreement, Future Fertility’s MAGENTA™ tool will be validated in the Eugin clinics, and personalised oocyte assessment reports will be commercially available to egg freezing and IVF-ICSI patients at both the Eugin Barcelona and Eugin Madrid locations.

Eugin Group is a leading global network of fertility clinics operating in Europe and Latin America, with a reputation for leadership in scientific research and the use of state-of-the-art technologies to advance patient care.

With headquarters based in Spain, a country renowned for its deep history of advancing fertility research and patient care, Eugin Group’s decision to implement Future Fertility’s technology in its flagship clinics signals increasing industry-wide confidence in their AI-based tools.

Future Fertility’s technology gained significant momentum within the fertility industry in 2023, with an installed base of over 90 clinics across more than 20 countries.

With an ability to seamlessly integrate into all laboratory set-ups, including time-lapse and microscope-only, adoption of their tools has been drastically increasing across the industry, as the dataset has grown to over 120,000 oocyte images and affiliated outcomes. With the broader adoption of these tools, the standard of care for evaluating oocyte quality is also evolving.

Historically, fertility specialists could only provide a general estimate of a patient’s chance of success based on their age and the number of mature eggs retrieved.

Future Fertility’s Deep Learning model can evaluate each egg’s unique likelihood of developing into a healthy embryo based on its image, bringing a new level of personalisation to fertility care.

Mina Popovic, the group’s scientific director comments: “Future Fertility’s AI tools enable our lab teams to assess egg quality in an objective, data-driven way that wasn’t previously possible.

“The Future Fertility team has been diligent in their approach to clinical validation and ensuring their tools are also backed through peer-reviewed scientific research. This gives us confidence that these tools are here to stay, and we’re headed towards a new standard of care in oocyte quality assessment.”

“These personalised insights enable our clinical team to tailor treatment plans to each patient’s needs and provide much-needed clarity for the patient regarding what they can expect to achieve from their treatment, while enabling stronger patient counselling on next steps,” adds Amelia Rodríguez-Aranda, medical director at Eugin Group.

Eugin Group’s decision to expand Future Fertility’s tools to its Spanish clinics follows the successful implementation of this technology in another network clinic in Argentina; CEGYR, a Eugin Group clinic in Buenos Aires, recently became the first clinic globally to use Future Fertility’s oocyte assessment software on every egg freezing and IVF-ICSI cycle.

“Eugin Group is recognised as a global powerhouse in terms of quality of care across the network. We’re excited to see the clinical and scientific use cases for our tools being proven out through such an esteemed partner,” says Christy Prada, CEO of Future Fertility.

“Eugin Group’s decision to expand our partnership to their two major home base clinics really speaks for itself – it’s great to see the value that our oocyte assessment tools are creating within the industry.

“We look forward to working together to evaluate other points along the IVF journey where our tools can help to improve outcomes and the overall patient experience.”

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