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The Polish start-up aiming to transform the reproductive medicine sector

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Ula Sankowska, MIM Fertility co-owner and co-CEO

AI start-ups have emerged as the newest players in the tech world. We speak to Ula Sankowska, co-owner and co-CEO of MIM Fertility, one of Poland’s most exciting deep tech start-ups on a mission to revolutionise IVF.

 

How did MIM Fertility come about?

Ula Sankowska: I must admit that the idea was born from personal experience. For many years I was a patient of in-vitro clinics, my path to motherhood was long and winding.

I know what prospective patients go through and I know the shortcomings of the treatment. I want to help people to fulfil their dream of a desired child. If we manage to revolutionise infertility treatment, I will be able to say with a clear conscience that my lifelong dream has come true.

The second factor, for sure, that gave me an amazing kick to start MIM Fertility were the people who believed in the idea.

Here I am talking about Piotr Wygocki, co-CEO of MIM Fertility – a great Polish innovator and researcher. It was certainly his enthusiasm and faith in the idea that allowed us to develop and create technologies that today are commercialised globally.

How does your software help couples struggling to conceive?

US: With our AI-driven technologies we increase chances for people to become parents. We provide greater accuracy in the diagnostic and treatment process, reducing the time and cost associated with fertility treatments and leading to better outcomes for our customers.

We developed two software tools that promise to deliver these goals.

The first technology is EMBRYOAID – an application that supports skilled embryologists in choosing the most promising embryo for implantation.

Choosing the right embryo to be implanted for a woman is extremely important because it increases the chance of success, minimises complications and shortens the time to pregnancy.

The EMBRYOAID system learns how embryos develop over time and then our model uses this information to identify the best embryos for implantation.

By understanding the entire development process, the system is able to identify the right embryos even from just one image. This is a cheaper alternative to current analytical tools that are only available at the most expensive IVF clinics.

We believe that it will give clinicians the opportunity to choose the best embryo, thereby reducing the number of in vitro fertilisation cycles needed to achieve a successful pregnancy, improving the success rate and minimising the risk of multiple pregnancies.

Our other technology, FOLLISCAN, is an AI/ML software platform designed to identify, calculate and measure follicles of all sizes in a two-second sweep through the ovary during transvaginal ultrasound. This is a key test because it allows you to determine the fertility of a woman in a given cycle.

This test is performed several times during the IVF process itself and allows you to determine the timing of its individual stages.

Thanks to FOLLISCAN, the gynaecologist and medical staff will have access to highly specialised medical knowledge, so far reserved mainly for a small group of specialists.

In addition, the platform automates a large part of the activities that currently have to be performed by a human. This will significantly facilitate diagnostics in terms of the assessment of ovarian monitoring, as well as the development of follicles.

FOLLISCAN, we think, will improve the diagnosis of female fertility and contribute to the use of treatment methods that are better suited to the patient’s needs, increasing their effectiveness.

What makes your technology different?

US: In the case of FOLLISCAN we have a technology that can cooperate with any ultrasonographic machine, i.e., both 2D and 3D.

For example, our main competitors require us to use 3D mode, which is typically not used in the AFC examination but as well requires more advanced hardware.

As for EMBRYOAID, this is more about our transparent approach to the development of our tools that includes engaging into tests with clinics, explaining well limitations of our models, as well as working on the explainability of our tools.

Where are you with the business now?

US: We are offering our technologies to IVF centres and clinics globally. Starting from January this year, the MIM family have joined 15 IVF clinics from different continents.

We are truly happy that by empowering clinics with our AI-driven software, we have a real impact on the decisions making by doctors and thus influence the treatment of patients.

Our software was created with passion and with the conviction that, above all, it must provide real value to people who use it.

Our motto is quality. Solid and robust algorithms are solutions you can trust. We do not want to hand over something that would not be effective and transparent.

What are your long-term goals?

US: We aim to introduce AI into further aspects of the IVF process. Starting from individual and personalised patient care, through deeper understanding of factors that are important for the IVF procedure itself, and ending with AI support for pre and post implantation treatment.

It is important to stress that we are a deep-tech company, i.e., research that leads to the development of our products can take even years.

Hence, we have already started some of these research projects as well as are planning further development works. We truly believe that AI can greatly improve IVF and make it more accessible.

Some clinicians remain sceptical of the benefits of AI to their work. How do you deal with such perceptions?

US: There is almost no doubt that AI will become the technology of the 21st century and will enter into more and more aspects of our jobs and lives.

Such disruptive technologies usually raise questions and doubts as their introduction is clearly visible. Hence, we need to engage in education of the public on two levels.

First, we need to familiarise the public that this technology is helpful, for example by explaining that image editing or styling tools are based on cutting edge AI.

Second, we need to educate our users on how to apply our tools and what their limitations are. In order to build trust in our solutions, we take special care to make them robust and explainable.

Do you think we need more AI education in healthcare?

US: Certainly and MIM Fertility engages into this process in the context of fertility care. We present widely our solutions on specialistic conferences devoted not only to IVF but targeted at gynaecologists.

We are also inviting a wide range of IVF clinics to test our tools, giving them an opportunity for discussions and further explanations.

However, AI education is quite challenging, as fully understanding these methods requires deep mathematical knowledge.

Where do you see fertility care in ten years’ time when it comes to technology advances?

US: AI understands complex processes and dependences much better than we humans. This technology will only reveal its full potential when more aspects of IVF are digitised and amenable for analysis.

Only then will we be able to fully understand the process and help more people become parents.

For more info, visit mimfertility.ai.

Q&A

#FromBerlinWithSolidarity: period tracking app Clue on reproductive rights and data privacy

Femtech World sat down with Clue chief product officer, Rhiannon White, to find out more about the company’s latest campaign

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To mark the one-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v Wade, the German period tracking app Clue has launched a powerful campaign.

From Berlin With Solidarity, a passion project by American Clue users and advertising creatives Amy Char, Heather Patterson, and Ashley Milhollin, aimed to bring attention to the very real fear of reproductive surveillance faced by women in US states where the loss of reproductive rights means people are afraid their health data could be used to prosecute them for seeking abortion.

The campaign, which featured bold billboards in the US and humorous posters in Berlin, was, in co-CEO Audrey Tsang’s words, directed at sparking a conversation about the importance of privacy rights for equal healthcare.

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The AI start-up on a mission to democratise IVF

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Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of AIVF
One in six people experience infertility globally, according to the World Health Organization. However, many couples are still unable to afford treatment. Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli fertility start-up AIVF, tells us how AI could democratise IVF and increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those struggling to conceive.

 

What is AIVF?

AIVF is an Israeli reproductive technology company transforming the fertility journey to be intelligent, accessible, and full of hope.

Based on scientific research and driven by real-world clinical use, AIVF developed a proprietary Fertility Operating System with automated embryo evaluation and deep learning algorithms to optimize clinical processes and improve patient outcomes.

Our solution, EMA, addresses two unmet needs in fertility. First, AI capabilities assist embryologists in their embryo evaluation, instantly identifying what the human eye cannot detect alone.

Second, with the integration of platforms, our single dashboard system streamlines all data in one place. From patient records to personalised embryo analytics, our platform connects the patient, lab, and clinic all in one place.

What is the story behind your company?

While writing my Ph.D. dissertation, it was suggested that my thesis could be a start-up. This field attracted me immediately. I believe being an embryologist is the most fantastic job in the world —using expertise to support individuals and families in bringing life into the world and homes.

While passionate about being an embryologist, I realised the more significant impact I could make is combining this with my previous experience using complex data to solve problems.

Knowing this field’s “ins and outs” made me realise there had been no significant progress and a lack of innovation for decades. I decided to jump right in, knowing I could make a difference for the better.

The move from embryologist to CEO of a start-up was a huge step, and I am constantly learning. My passion for helping bring children into the world remains the same. It’s my greater obligation to the world around me to create the next generation of IVF for clinicians, embryologists, and, most importantly, patients.

What makes your technology different?

The AIVF software algorithm was developed using hundreds of thousands of images and videos of embryos tagged with successful conception and leading to a normal pregnancy.

Currently, the programme can independently identify the embryos with the highest chances of developing into normal pregnancy.

The software AIVF developed identifies biological processes the human eye can’t detect. For example, the technology can spot mitochondrial ‘energy action’ directly linked to the embryo’s collapse or chances of implantation.

Unlike most deep learning algorithms, the AIVF platform identifies the patterns driving its actions and can explain its decisions.

It will mark, for example, that it has given a low score to a specific embryo due to disruptions or disorders found during its development, a different behavioural pattern at the cell division stage, or abnormal morphological appearance such as fractures.

How would your technology change the patient experience and fertility care more broadly?

On average, the IVF journey takes four years, seven cycles, and three miscarriages, costing an average of US$12,000 per IVF round.

By improving the embryologist’s capabilities in selecting the most viable embryo, there is potential for AI to help a patient conceive in one or two cycles. Our technology aims to minimise IVF’s financial and emotional costs by reducing the cost and time spent.

Additionally, our technology aims to add transparency to each patient’s IVF journey. While patients can access more information than ever, they make decisions based on a leaflet in the doctor’s office or a quick internet search.

Individuals need friendly and professional guidance to help them understand their journey’s complexities. Our integrated platform provides a window into the IVF lab and personalised analytics that help patients understand each step of the journey.

Where are you with the business now?

We are integrated with Southeast Asia, South America, North America, and Europe fertility clinics. So far, studies from our European clinics show that the platform has demonstrated a 70 per cent probability of success for embryos with a high EMA score.

The clinical studies also showed that EMA improved embryologists’ accuracy by 38 per cent and reduced the number of cycles to achieve pregnancy by 21.5 per cent on average. By improving embryologists’ accuracy, AIVF saves both time and money in the fertility journey.

What are your goals for this year?

IVF is one of the most important medical innovations in the last 50 years. Yet, the legacy technology used today in clinics can’t serve the 25 million women in the US who have limited or no access to fertility care.

At AIVF, we aim to use technology to make IVF efficient, accurate, and accessible to all who wish to grow their families.

Where do you see AIVF in five years?

Embryo evaluation using AI will democratise IVF by increasing access across underserved groups. More specifically, it will facilitate reduced costs by optimising our labour, laboratory performance, shorter time to a healthy, live birth of a singleton, and reduced failed cycles by not transferring embryos with a low chance of implantation (deselected embryos).

The promise of AI mitigated freedom for the computational embryologist is not just a new toolkit. It is the democratisation of high-quality IVF services. We call it IVF 3.0.

As we integrate AI technology into IVF practices and our work as embryologists and clinicians, the goals should remain the same: minimise costs and patient drop-out due to stress and financial fatigue while ensuring the highest quality patient care.

 

Daniella Gilboa is the co-founder and CEO of the AI technology start-up AIVF. As an IVF researcher, she is dedicated to advancing the science of using machine learning to optimise IVF processes. Gilboa is committed to driving the next generation of IVF technology and increase pregnancy success rates.

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The founder on a mission to help women find the perfect-fitting bra

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Valentina Biglia, founder and CEO at FindYourBra

When Valentina Biglia launched FindYourBra she had one mission in mind: to change the way women shop for bras. Driven by her grandmother’s battle with breast cancer, she set about creating a unique platform that would not only redefine women’s shopping experience but assist them with finding the perfect-fitting bra. She tells us all about it below.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I studied product design at the Politecnico of Turin, Italy. The idea of creating things from scratch has always fascinated me. Beauty and harmony are two characteristics that I seek and pursue.

I did a master’s degree in advanced interior design for commercial spaces at the IED in Barcelona. Products, fashion and the user experience in shopping are something I have always been passionate about, just as I am interested in philosophy, psychology and anthropology.

I studied gestalt, a branch of psychology, to better understand the behavioural patterns of human beings.

During my professional experience I had a parenthesis where I trained and worked as a bra fitter in a specialised lingerie shop in Barcelona. This experience changed my life and led me to founding FindYourBra.

What inspired you to create FindYourBra?

There are three main things that inspired me to create FindYourBra: firstly my personal experience with my body. I have never been satisfied with it, in particular with my breasts. I thought they were a “problem” until I found the right bra size.

On the other hand, I saw how finding the right bra size immediately changed the expression on the face of the people I was serving in the fitting rooms of the bra shop. At the same time I understood that the user experience was quite poor that any comment or look could create a trauma for them and that at that moment their self-esteem was at stake.

And, third reason, certainly not because of importance, is because of my grandmother. She has fought breast cancer twice, she has come out the winner again in November 2022.

She has been hiding her breasts every day for the last 30 years, fixing the breast asymmetry with socks stuffed with rice. She and other women like her inspire me every day to create a solution to help them get their lives back as soon as possible.

How would you describe your innovation in a few words?

The easiest, fastest and more intuitive way to buy bras online that suits you in total privacy and autonomy. A selection based on you, your measurements – taken with our patented measurement system – needs and preferences that changes as you changes.

No barriers, No measurements, No conversions, No size charts: just buy what fits to feel supported, comfortable and beautiful.

(more…)

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