IVF clinic promises babies on a budget
Scientist seeks funds to open up Calgary facility
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.