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IVF is complicated. AI companies are looking to help

People in the U.S. are waiting longer to have babies. And more and more families are seeking help with getting pregnant. In fact, according to Penn Medicine, one million babies have been born between 1987 and 2015 using in vitro fertilization or other assisted technology.

But IVF success rates remain relatively low. There is a 21.3% chance of full-term normal birth weight and singleton live birth per assisted reproductive technology cycle, Penn Medicine states.

However, innovators are looking to artificial intelligence to help boost these numbers and help people have genetically healthy babies. The new technology is also expected to help cut down on the cost of invasive procedures.

“The fertility sector is advancing significantly in respect to technology. AI is certainly the next big wave of, I wouldn’t call it disruption, but I would call it advancement in the fertility sector,” Presagen founder and CEO Dr. Michelle Perugini told MobiHealthNews. “It’s really going to improve success rates for patients. It’s going to create great efficiency in the lab environment and also standardization of what is currently a quite subjective process.”

Presagen’s fertility-focused branch Life Whisperer is working on new technology aimed at helping doctors find the patient’s genetically healthy embryos.

“This new product is called Life Whisperer Genetics. We are so excited about it,” Perugini said. “Essentially without biopsying an embryo, we can assess the likelihood of it being genetically normal or genetically abnormal just through using artificial intelligence and the images of the embryos.”

The latest tech runs on AWS, which allows it to scale and figure out HIPAA compliance. Typically, PGT-A genetic testing requires a portion of healthy embryos to be removed for future testing.

“We’re conducting a study using our AI, and the study was done on around 91,500 stimulated patient cohorts. There was around 1,000 embryos in those cohorts,” Perugini said. “Then we used the AI to rank the embryos to see how often they could get the normal embryos right up to the top because what you want to do is select the most genetically normal embryos each time. It was able to rank the most normal embryos [at the] top about 82% of the time. And within the top 2, it was able to arrange it around 96% of the time. So really good accuracy. It’s super exciting.”

Life Whisperer previously developed a tool called Life Whisperer Viability, which uses AI for embryo assessment during the IVF process. The tool was designed to help predict which embryo will lead to implantation or not using a single image of the embryo.

Perugini said tools like these can help cut down on the costs associated with fertility practices and boost the chances of having a genetically healthy baby.

“What we are doing is putting evidence-based and objectivity to some of the decisions being made in the IVF process. And in particular, we are working on the embryo selection process, so obviously during the IVF selecting the healthiest embryo is critical to a successful pregnancy outcome,” she said. “How that is done now is through risky and invasive processes like PGT-A or through subjective processes like embryo grading. Both of those can be improved with AI.”

Presagen isn’t the only company working in the space. This morning, Israeli company AiVF landed a European CE mark for its AI-based digital embryology management platform EMA.

The company’s new platform was developed to help integrate AI, computer vision and big data. It also has a genetic evaluation tool designed to detect if an embryo is genetically suitable for transfer without a biopsy.

“Some 30% of all IVF treatments take place in Europe, and clinics have difficulty meeting the demand for treatment,” Daniella Gilboa, AiVF’s cofounder and CEO, said in a statement. “AiVF’s unique solution has created an automated lab that, through its remarkable digital capabilities, is able to perform many of the embryologist’s tasks rapidly, accurately and objectively.”

Another Israeli company called Embryonics is also looking into the fertility space. This company is currently focused on using AI to improve the odds of successfully implanting an embryo during IVF.

In July 2020, the company presented a peer-reviewed study at the Medical Imaging with Deep Learning conference in Montreal. Technology was developed on a curated data set from tens of thousands of IVF cycles, including time-lapse videos of embryos. 

Perugini said AI is scalable in a way that some of the biopsying is not. She said her company is looking to take the product globally into the U.S., Europe, India and beyond.

“I think for patients what they are looking for is transparency in their treatment,” she said. “They are looking for more science. They are looking for more evidence and structure around decisions being made for them in the clinical environment. It doesn’t in any way replace the embryologist. It’s just really adding value. It’s helping the embryologist to be more accurate at what they do.”

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