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About 10 percent of women in the U.S. (6.1 million) have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. Although in vitro fertilization (IVF) is widely recognized as the best treatment for infertility, many couples are deterred by the high costs involved (generally between $10,000 to $20,000 per cycle). Univfy, which uses machine learning to better predict IVF success rates, announced today that it has raised $6 million to democratize access to IVF. Rethink Impact led the round.
“Anyone who has attempted to navigate the IVF process knows just how harrowing it is — physically, financially, and emotionally,” said Univfy cofounder and CEO Dr. Mylene Yao, in a statement. “After years of seeing couples struggle with IVF, I was curious as to why some IVF patients had more success than others.”
The board certified ob-gyn developed Univfy’s technology with cofounder and scientific advisor Wing H. Wong at Stanford, where Yao was a faculty member. They founded the startup in 2009 and are now licensing the technology exclusively.
Together, they created a B2B platform that they claim can accurately predict the success rate of IVF treatments for each patient. This enables fertility clinics to provide a personalized IVF prognostic report, which in turn allows them to customize financing and refund warranty programs.
“Over 50 percent of women who try IVF for the first time drop out after the first failed cycle, even though their probability of having a baby is high after two or three treatment cycles,” said Yao. “When the patients are paying for a treatment, they want to know what their chances are.”
Based on data provided by the clinic (location, population type, previous IVF outcomes, etc.) Univfy builds a software-based predictive model that is sent to that clinic via a secure cloud-based system. The PreIVF report is then completed by the doctor, who adds the woman’s medical history. This allows the clinic to set up a refund program that matches the individual patient’s success rate.
For example: Women who have a 70 to 80 percent chance of success will get their second IVF treatment for free if the first one fails. And if none of the three cycles is successful, the patient will receive a partial or full refund, depending on what was initially agreed upon.
There are already refund programs available on the market. However, Yao argues that these have an extremely strict selection process. “Only 10 to 15 percent of women will meet these criteria and qualify for the program,” she said.
According to Yao, patients who have access to Univfy’s technology have a much higher chance of qualifying for a refund program (50 to 80 percent). Her hope is that in time clinics will be able to offer more IVF treatments to more women.
Univfy says it bases its research on data collected from over 150,000 IVF treatments and 500,000 embryos in large research collaborations with IVF centers in the U.S., U.K., Spain, Canada, and China.
The startup is currently working with 12 fertility centers in the U.S., including The Advanced Fertility Institute, the Fertility Center of Dallas, and the Reproductive Resource Center. These centers pay a fixed monthly fee to access the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. (It’s important to note that patients aren’t charged extra to benefit from Univfy’s service.)
The startup has raised just under $15 million to date and plans on using the fresh injection of capital to expand its network of fertility clinics and grow its team of 12.
With femtech startups like Clue, Modern Fertility, and Future Family working to provide more tech-driven solutions for women (and couples in general), the conversation around fertility is definitely picking up in Silicon Valley.
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