In Vitro Test Spots Healthy Embryos, Improving Success Rate

By Stephanie Lee
San Francisco Chronicle.

A woman struggling to conceive children through in vitro fertilization can now turn to a growing number of Bay Area startups with sophisticated technologies designed to make the frustrating process cheaper and more successful.

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, consists of fertilizing eggs with sperm in a laboratory and embedding the most promising embryos in the womb.

But the difficulty of accurately predicting which embryo will succeed often drives women to pay for multiple IVF rounds and to carry twins or triplets at a risk to their health.

One new and noninvasive diagnostic test based on Stanford University research is being touted for its ability to spot a successful embryo early in development.

Auxogyn, the Menlo Park company behind the test, recently announced a deal that gives the pharmaceutical giant Merck exclusive rights to commercialize the test in Europe and Canada, where it is already available on a limited basis.

Recent advancements in IVF diagnostic tests “will probably allow for a significant increase in pregnancy rate due to the fact that the best embryos will be picked,” said Dr. Shahin Ghadir, a fertility specialist at the Southern California Reproductive Center who is not involved with Auxogyn.

The global market for infertility drugs and devices will hit $4.8 billion in 2017 compared with $3.6 billion in 2010, according to Transparency Market Research.

Age can be a factor in pregnancy complications and a reason to seek out IVF, and aspiring mothers tend to be a little older these days.

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that women in their 40s are more likely to have babies now than at any time in more than four decades.

IVF isn’t ideal in terms of efficacy or cost. About 41 percent of IVF cycles with fresh embryos result in live births for women under 35, a rate that significantly drops off in later age, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies.

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