Béa Fertility has a plan to launch the first at-home fertility clinic, making insemination treatment accessible to all and bring up the potential success rates.
Fertility clinics and treatments are infamously tough to access. While one in seven couples in the UK faces infertility challenges, it is estimated that less than five per cent of these people can get treatment. Because of cuts to funding and stringent rules on who can be treated, just 35 per cent of IVF is funded by the NHS, and increasingly the field is dominated by private fertility clinics. For lesbian couples, who have the added cost of acquiring donor sperm for artificial insemination, the problem is even worse. Home insemination seems to be the obvious answer, but with few resources available to support and guide people trying to perform home insemination, it can easily become overwhelming for those wishing to conceive at home.
One British startup wants to change that. Béa Fertility – which was co-founded by David O’Rourke, George Thomas and Tess Cosad – are launching the first at-home fertility treatment after netting $1m (£700,000) in pre-seed funding in April. Their aim is to make fertility treatment accessible to those locked out of the system. Béa Fertility’s kits, will be delivered straight to your door, for you to perform home insemination easily and effectively. The kits will be a comprehensive treatment and include pregnancy tests, fertility trackers and sperm donation pots, alongside their main product: an intracervical insemination (ICI) device. This is an applicator used to place a silicone cap (provided) filled with sperm onto the cervix, where it stays for four to six hours.
“I’m a clinical embryologist, so I worked on Harley Street for a long time,” explains David. “And a tiny amount of people got the opportunity to sit in front of me. That was something I could only do for so long before I didn’t feel comfortable with it anymore.” Tackling that issue led him to work on an at-home device to “crack open” access. It was after three years of stringent research and over ninety prototypes that David connected with Tess, a marketing specialist with experience working with several technology companies. “I knew I was looking for something else,” Tess says. “And working on something that drives [fertility] access fits right in my wheelhouse.”
Béa Fertility’s technology, intracervical insemination (ICI), is a long-established conception strategy, but has been increasingly replaced by in-clinic options such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Intrauterine Fertilisation (IUI). “A lot of papers were produced around ICI and IUI documenting very similar efficacy rates,” explains David. Béa says it expects its ICI device to deliver the same kind of success rate as IUI – ten to twenty per cent on the first cycle – at a fifth of the cost of a single IUI treatment, which is typically around £1,500.
Fertility treatments are most effective after multiple rounds, but the high cost of IVF and IUI often makes that unaffordable. Béa says that the lower cost of their kit will make it more accessible to people for monthly use, thus bringing up the potential success rates – it predicts as high as 60 per cent after several months. By giving people the ability to perform home insemination effectively, they hope to give their customers more control over their treatment process than they would experience in fertility clinics.
“If you look at a lot of the innovation in the fertility sector today, it’s very easy to innovate digitally,” explains Tess, citing the abundance of cycle-tracking apps, hormone testing and more that dominates the booming fertility-tech scene. “We’re going right to the centre of the problem.”
That hardware focus comes with challenges, such as stringent regulation for medical devices such as Béa’s, but Tess and David expect to get UK and EU medical clearance by the end of this year, allowing them to fully launch in 2022. As infertility rates have skyrocketed in recent decades, the Béa team is sure the issue isn’t going away. “The problem is only going in one direction,” Tess says. “We need more treatment options.”
Disclaimer: Gender is experienced differently by all, particularly when it comes to our fertility. Our articles are written by a variety of authors, all of whom bring their experiences into their writing. Some articles will reflect these experiences more than others, and our goal is always to create content that represents all families.