On 25 July 1978, the world’s first “test-tube” baby, named Louise Brown, was born at the UK’s Oldham General hospital. Her parents had been trying to conceive naturally for nine years, but faced complications from the mother’s blocked fallopian tubes. There had been intense opposition to the whole concept of in vitro fertilization (IVF) with many leading doctors, scientists, religious leaders and politicians calling it a perversion of the natural order. When asked for his reaction to Louise’s birth, the cardinal who later became Pope John Paul I expressed his concerns, fearing that artificial insemination could lead to women being used as “baby factories”. As well, there were predictions of the resulting baby being abnormal. When Louise was born – picture perfect – the whole image of IVF was turned on its head, and it became a valuable tool in the medical library.
Now, 44 years later, the whole concept of IVF has become accepted and welcomed. Around 1.4 million babies have been successfully conceived and carried through to birth in the US since 1987, and on average 2-3% of all births are conceived via IVF.
Here in Israel, the scientific and medical facilities are at the forefront of research into improving the success rates of IVF, of expanding the range of complications in normal birth that the technique can address, and in commercializing these outcomes into vibrant new startup companies that represent the best of the best in the Start-Up nation.
The IVF sector in Israel – a brief outline
Israeli investors and entrepreneurs are investing considerable funds into the area of IVF treatment. According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, the number of IVF procedures has risen from fewer than 5000 in 1990 to around 35,000 in 2019 and about 52,000 last year. Currently, roughly 4% of all live births in Israel have been as a result of IVF treatments. Israel has the world’s highest percentage of IVF treatments per capita. This can in part be attributed to the generous government subsidy program, which provides generous funding for treatments for the birth of the first two children for women up to the age of 45 – a saving of around $40,000.
The high level of treatments in Israel combined with the development of the local high-tech industry has resulted in the establishment of several start-ups in the IVF field. Here is a short summary of some of the leading participants in the Israeli economy.
The company is seeking to leverage AI to improve the process and results of fertility treatments. Using proprietary data and algorithms it can help fertility doctors make better decisions for their patients, leading to more babies from fewer cycles. One of the specific problems the company is addressing is the worldwide tendency of delaying the childbearing cycle into the mother’s later years. Now, babies are often born to mothers of more advanced age.
Embie is a downloadable app that tracks the parameters that IVF candidates need in order to maximize the success of the procedure. Timing is everything when collecting the eggs intended for IVF and having the app enables women to monitor their fertility cycle accurately, setting reminders for time-based measurements of cycles such as
- reminders for medications and appointments
- results tracking
- input, storage and display lab, ultrasound, egg collection and embryo reports
- compare results with previous cycles
AiVF is aiming to simplify the IVF embryo selection process by providing clinicians and embryologists with a fully automated, AI-based decision support tool.
The main product right now is the EMA Software Platform for Clinics
EMA™ is a SaaS platform which uses proven artificial intelligence technology to assist embryo evaluation in IVF clinics. It was developed on a large and diverse database of hundreds of thousands of embryo images and health records in collaboration with leading healthcare institutions across the US, Europe and Asia.
Embryo evaluation is performed by trained clinical embryologists, in the IVF lab. The EMA platform acts as the Fertility Operating System, providing automated and objective insights to augment the embryologist in embryo evaluation while supporting operational efficiencies.
- automated and objective evaluation of embryo quality
- data-driven insights to assist clinicians, IVF lab managers and embryologists
- digital IVF workflows for operational efficiencies
The platform is secure, with connectivity 24/7 for Android and iOS and complies with ISO 13485 medical device standards.