Béa Fertility, an Irish co-founded start-up, is looking to provide an alternative to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) for those struggling to conceive with an at-home fertility treatment that will be offered via a monthly subscription.
The London-based company founded by embryologist David O’Rourke and femtech specialist Tess Cosad, has just raised $1 million (€850,000) in seed capital ahead of its launch later this year.
The founders say they are looking to “democratise” access to affordable, effective fertility treatments for couples and individuals who are struggling to conceive. IVF may be both too expensive for some of these people and can take a huge physical and emotional toll on those involved.
While initially focused on Britain, Mr O’Rourke said the company was interested in making its subscription service available in Ireland as well.
“We are aiming to provide this service locally and we are currently in the process of getting regulatory approval in Europe, ” he said.
Infertility is estimated to affect one in seven hetersosexual couples in Ireland and Britain. A cycle of IVF locally usually costs between €6,000 and €10,000 in Ireland depending on which treatment is required and which clinic is used. Currently, there is no financial support for those turning to the treatment, other than tax relief. While support is more readily available in Britain, there are strict criteria as to who is eligible for it.
Béa’s clinical-standard fertility treatment enable couples to carry out intracervical insemination (ICI) at home. The service, which will cost about £300 (€352) a month, involves placing a small cup of semen close to the cervix for two consecutive days in a month – a strategy called double insemination – and leaving it there for four to 12 hours. During that time, women can go about their days normally.
The start-up says its service improves the chances of conception by 40 per cent if used over three months, and by as much as 60 per cent if used over six months.The subscription service involves ICI devices, ovulation tests, pregnancy tests, and access to an app to help track ovulation dates and the progress of their fertility journey.
“The great thing about taking a different approach to treating infertility, as we are doing, is that the treatment comes to the user in their home so if you have a postal address you have access, and we want to provide access to everyone in need,” said Mr O’Rourke.
“The situation in Ireland is different when compared to the UK, worse you might even say,” the Dubliner said.
Mr O’Rourke said the start-up has gone through over 90 design iterations of its ICI device to reach the right balance of effectiveness and user-friendliness.
The British government-backed Innovate UK is among Béa backers.
The company said it intends to use the financing it has secured to take its product from prototype stage through clinical studies. It hopes to formally launch the subscription service later this year.
“ICI is clinically proven to be highly effective when it comes to increasing the chances of conception, but it’s not made available to people at the beginning of their fertility journey. Instead, they have to take a big leap into the expensive world of invasive treatments. But for people where there’s no medically identified issue causing infertility, ICI can be the ideal way of maximising their chances of getting pregnant,” said Ms Cosad.
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