IVF clinic prom­ises ba­bies on a bud­get

Sci­en­tist seeks funds to open up Cal­gary fa­cil­ity

Calgary Herald - - CANADA - ALI­SON MOTLUK

Cal­gary may soon be­come home to Canada’s first low­cost IVF fa­cil­ity, which will use a “plas­tic womb” in a tech­nique that has been shown to be al­most as ef­fec­tive as con­ven­tional fer­til­ity treat­ment at half the price.

In­stead of in­cu­bat­ing em­bryos in an ex­pen­sive lab­o­ra­tory with round-the­clock mon­i­tor­ing, fer­til­iza­tion and early em­bry­onic de­vel­op­ment will take place in­side a woman’s own body, tucked in­side a small plas­tic de­vice known as an INVO­cell. Held in place by a di­aphragm, the de­vice is per­me­able to oxy­gen and car­bon diox­ide. It’s re­moved af­ter five days and the best em­bryo is trans­ferred to the uterus.

“The woman’s vagi­nal cav­ity is the lab,” says Ja­son Broome, who de­vel­oped the stream­lined pro­to­col in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a Texas fer­til­ity doc­tor.

Broome, a B.C. sci­en­tist and en­tre­pre­neur, is launch­ing a Kick­starter-type cam­paign on Thurs­day to build the clinic in down­town Cal­gary. He is ask­ing 100 “founder pa­tients” to pony up $4,000 each, by go­ing on­line to www.ef­fort­lessIVF.ca. Pre-pay­ment will en­ti­tle them to a full round of the cut-rate IVF, in­clud­ing med­i­ca­tion.

If all goes well, Broome reck­ons he will open the clinic’s doors by the end of Septem­ber. Wait times at Al­berta fer­til­ity clin­ics range from six to 18 months. He es­ti­mates that the Ef­fort­less IVF Cal­gary clinic will have the ca­pac­ity to treat 1,000 pa­tients each year. The cost to pa­tients af­ter the clinic opens will be $6,500 all in, about half the price of reg­u­lar IVF.

In­stead of tin­ker­ing with egg-boost­ing med­i­ca­tions used in con­ven­tional IVF, the doc­tors will sim­ply pre­scribe con­ser­va­tively, based on the woman’s weight plus the re­sults of a sin­gle an­tiMul­le­rian hor­mone blood test, which gives a mea­sure of egg sup­ply. In­stead of mul­ti­ple blood tests and ul­tra­sounds in the run-up to re­mov­ing her eggs, she will have just one ul­tra­sound, on day 10, and that alone will de­ter­mine when her eggs will be re­trieved. Ad­di­tion­ally, all re­trievals will be sched­uled for week­days, so the clinic will not have to pay staff to work week­ends.

In Fe­bru­ary, Broome and Kevin Doody, of the Cen­ter for As­sisted Re­pro­duc­tion in Bed­ford, Texas, pub­lished the re­sults of a clin­i­cal trial on INVO­cell in the Journal of As­sisted Re­pro­duc­tion and Ge­net­ics. The study found that women us­ing the INVO­cell de­vice were just as likely to have at least one high-qual­ity em­bryo, to get preg­nant and to have a live birth as women who were ran­dom­ized to re­ceive tra­di­tional IVF. (Tra­di­tional IVF did pro­duce more high qual­ity em­bryos over­all.) Of the 20 women in the INVO­cell group, 11 went on to have at least one baby, com­pared with 12 in the IVF group.

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