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UK researchers redesign needle used in IVF in a bid to boost success rates

The work is a culmination of five years of research into fertility

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A team of UK researchers have redesigned the needle used in IVF procedures in a bid to boost success rates.

During IVF, eggs are taken from a woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a lab. Once fertilised, the egg becomes an embryo – which is then inserted into the womb to grow.

Gathering oocytes is invasive and expensive and, according to computer models, current techniques successfully collect only 60 per cent of available oocytes. The more oocytes that can be harvested, the more chance of a successful pregnancy.

The latest modelling research, led by Radu Cimpeanu, associate professor at Warwick Mathematics Institute at University of Warwick, has helped to improve the efficacy of the needles used in oocyte extraction.

The study, published in the Journal of Biomechanics, is a culmination of five years of research into fertility.

The researchers improved the efficacy of the needles through mathematical and computer models, which helped them study the complex flow of liquid through the needles used in IVF.

They showed that in traditional IVF methods, when the needle is inserted into follicles in the ovary to extract oocytes, the flow of fluids through the needle can damage the oocytes.

To address this, the team redesigned the needle to have specialised lateral channels, steering fluid flow inside the follicle to gently move the oocyte towards the hollow tip of the needle.

This, the researchers argued, would make it less likely for the oocytes to become stuck or damaged during extraction, improving collected numbers considerably at this early stage of the procedure.

“The study represents a fantastic interdisciplinary undertaking, with medical practitioners, engineers and mathematicians coming together to solve a problem from a completely new direction,” said Professor Cimpeanu.

“The study began in 2018, while I was at the University of Oxford, and quickly developed into an international collaboration.

“Seeing the models come to life as prototypes used in real-world studies has been an incredibly rewarding experience.”

Dr Ektoras Georgiou, subspecialist registrar in reproductive medicine and surgery at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Modern IVF is a long and arduous process and its success rate is modest, at best.

“After leading a systematic review which demonstrated that the practice of follicular flushing does not improve oocyte yield or IVF outcomes, I found myself wondering how this now outdated process could be improved.

“It has been so exciting to be able to bring together a team of experts across different fields, who share in my passion to drive innovation in an evidence-based and scientific approach.”

The researchers, along with collaborators from the University of Nottingham and the Paragon Veterinary Group, tested the new type of needle in IVF procedures in cattle.

“We are currently laying the foundations for human trial studies and are in discussions with manufacturers to try to implement this new model at scale,” explained Cimpeanu.

“Alongside IVF, the research could have wide-reaching benefits, improving the use of needles in a range of medical treatments.”

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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.

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Tech4Eva launches its fourth edition and call for application

Tech4Eva is searching for entrepreneurs ready to address the unmet health needs of women worldwide

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Tech4Eva, a pioneering accelerator programme dedicated to the femtech sector, is opening its call for applications, inviting femtech start-ups to join its mission to improve women’s health.

The programme is searching for entrepreneurs ready to address the unmet health needs of women worldwide, promising to help entrepreneurs to take their start-ups to the next level.

What is Tech4Eva?

Tech4Eva, is a joint programme between EPFL Innovation Park and Groupe Mutuel for companies developing innovative technology solutions to improve women’s health globally.

What is Tech4Eva looking for? 
Why join?

Applying to the Tech4Eva accelerator programme is a pivotal step for any femtech start-up looking to elevate its impact and reach in the women’s health sector.

Here is an overview of the benefits the programme offers:

  • Strategic refinement: Sharpen your business model and go-to-market strategy with expert guidance, positioning your start-up for sustainable growth and success.
  • Enhanced visibility: Participate in roadshows to showcase your innovative solutions, broadening your exposure to key stakeholders in the Tech4Eva femtech ecosystem.
  • Direct connections: Gain invaluable access to a network of investors and potential customers.
  • Personalised coaching: Receive targeted technical and business coaching tailored to your start-up’s unique challenges.
  • Peer learning: Benefit from Peer2Peer sessions that foster exchange of insights and experiences with fellow founders.
  • Community engagement: Become an integral part of a global femtech community, connecting with like-minded innovators committed to transforming women’s health.
The time is now

This is more than a call for applications, it’s a call to action. The Tech4Eva accelerator programme offers more than growth – it offers a chance to be part of a movement set to redefine the future of women’s health.

If your start-up is ready to take the next step, your time is now. Apply here to join the Tech4Eva programme now.

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Investors launch female-focused angel network in the north of England

The Leeds-based group aims to build a diverse investment community for women entrepreneurs in the north of England

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Two UK-based businesswomen have launched an angel investment network to back women-led start-ups in the north of England.

Co-founded by Jordan Dargue and Helen Oldham, Lifted Ventures was launched based on research showing that female-led businesses generate on average double the revenue for each pound invested, despite receiving minimal funding.

Funding has been identified as a top barrier for women in tech and business, with the Alison Rose Review revealing that less than one per cent of all venture funding goes to all-female-founded start-ups.

Dargue and Oldham, who led the NorthInvest angel network and co-founded Fund Her North and Women Angels of the North, said they came together to this new venture to build on their work in closing the early-stage gender and ethnic funding gap in the UK.

The Leeds-based group aims to build a diverse investment community for women entrepreneurs in the north of England, planning to create networks for angels and supply its capital to women-led startups.

“Too often the conversation focuses on disparity, gender funding gaps, barriers and challenges. Lifted Ventures is focusing on opportunity,” said Oldham, co-founder of Lifted Ventures and board member of the UK Business Angels Association, told UKTN.

“One of our main aims is to educate and inform investors on the proven business benefits and greater economic returns which result from supporting female-founded businesses.”

Lifted’s angel networks, Oldham said, would include education programmes to support new and experienced investors who want to gain a better understanding of how to back female-led businesses.

“We understand that female-led businesses and women angels need tailored pathways to ensure that they’re successful,” explained Jordan, co-founder of Lifted Ventures.

“The education programmes we’re developing aim to provide investors and founders alike with the practical resources and knowledge they need to ensure success.”

She aded: “We believe that investment should be accessible to everyone, irrespective of their background, ethnicity, gender, neuro or physical diversity.”

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US maternity clinic raises a US$28m to expand nationally

Oula plans to expand its hybrid care approach and launch new services for those in their reproductive years

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The US maternity care clinic Oula has raised a US$28m in funding to introduce new services and expand nationally.

Oula aims to brings together the best of midwifery and obstetrics to deliver, what the start-up describes as, “whole-person” care.

Since its launch in 2021, the clinic, which can currently be found in three locations in New York City, has focused on providing a better care experience for women, combing modern medicine with a more personalised approach.

Now, with nearly US$50m in total funding, Oula plans to expand its hybrid care approach to more markets beyond New York City and launch new services for those in their reproductive years.

“The power of Oula’s collaborative approach to care is that patients feel seen and heard during a transformative moment in their lives, health systems are able to address the evolving expectations of their communities and we can move the needle on unacceptable outcomes and disparities in maternal care,” explained Adrianne Nickerson, co-founder and CEO and of Oula.

Elaine Purcell, co-founder and COO of Oula, said: “We’ve not only proven that this model works, but that it’s what patients from all backgrounds, birth preferences, and income levels are looking for.

“Whether you can afford concierge care or are on Medicaid, we are building a modern and compassionate pregnancy care model that delivers better outcomes than the system has proven to do. We deserve better and yes, you can have it all.”

Clara Sieg, partner and founding member at Revolution Ventures, which co-led the funding round alongside Maverick Ventures, said: “Pregnancy outcomes in the US have consistently deteriorated over the past two decades.

“Oula is solving this mounting crisis by reimagining the maternal experience with midwifery-first, team-based care supported by virtual wrap-around services and a tech-enabled platform.

“We are excited to partner with the team as Oula scales its care model and empowers women to receive personalised, trusted support throughout pregnancy.”

David Singer of Maverick Ventures, added: “We are thrilled to back a company that effectively aligns the needs of mothers, health systems and payers, and breaks the false binary between unmedicalised and hypermedicalised care.”

Instead of waiting for the standard eight-week ultrasound, Oula allows patients to book an appointment as soon as their positive pregnancy test, supporting patients in the postpartum period.

The clinic also plans to introduce pre-conception coaching visits and expanded miscarriage support options in the coming year.

Joanne Schneider, Oula’s chief experience officer, said: “Oula is distinct in the pregnancy landscape today not only in redesigning the standard pregnancy and birth experience, but also in filling the gaps where the medical system typically fails patients: early pregnancy care and postpartum. Even when there aren’t any medical needs, these are times when people need emotional support.

She added: “Miscarriages are extremely common, so I was shocked at how isolated I felt when I had my own miscarriage. It’s not considered a big deal medically, but it’s a very big deal when you are going through it.”

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