In vitro fertilization (IVF) has been around for decades. It is used to help people who are trying to conceive, but have trouble due to some sort of medical issue. If a man is infertile, sperm can be acquired from a sperm bank and simply implanted into a woman who is fertile. But when the woman is the one who has trouble conceiving, it is a different story entirely.
There are also gay couples who wish to father children. In their case, a woman can volunteer to carry their child. NVIDIA Israel recently announced that starting this year it will finance costs for surrogacy proceedings for each of its 2,500 employees regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or marital status. And the Israel Supreme Court ruled just last week that Israel’s government must end its ban on surrogacy for gay men and single men.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the success rate of IVF depends on a variety of factors including reproductive history, maternal age, the cause of infertility, and certain general health factors. They also point out that pregnancy rates are not the same as live birth rates. In the United States, the live birth rate for each IVF cycle started is approximate: 41-43% for women under age 35; 33-36% for women ages 35 to 37; 23-27% for women ages 38 to 40; 13-18% for women ages over 40.
Couples and single people trying to conceive, or have a child through surrogacy using IVF is a serious issue. It has been a theme of television show episodes and movies alike for years.
Sometimes the subject is taken very seriously, like on the Netflix mini-series “Private Life.” This 2018 show starred Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti as a couple trying to conceive a child through the use of IVF. The program dramatized the process of undergoing fertility treatments, how undergoing multiple fertility therapies to get pregnant can become a hardship for a woman, and even do damage to a married couple’s relationship.
Regular television series also took the matter seriously by showing characters suffering through the pain of infertility, as well as the difficult process involved with IVF. “Sex and The City,” “Parenthood” and “This Is Us” all had such storylines over the years.
Then there are movies that take a lighthearted approach to the issue. In 2008 Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-starred in “Baby Mamma.” This comedy was about a successful, single businesswoman (Fey) who wants to have a child. But then she discovers that she is infertile and so hires a working-class woman (Poehler) to be her surrogate. This may be familiar to many people who went through a similar experience themselves or know someone who did.
Sometimes fiction can provide the general public with a better understanding of a serious issue like IVF. But what about the stories of the real people who have devoted their lives to finding ways that will make IVF more affordable and more effective? In doing so, they not only even the playing field, as it were, for access to IVF between people of different economic classes, but they also make the process less of a hardship for those who undergo it. Both will certainly help to prevent the strains on marriages caused by the IVF process.
Daniella Gilboa is one such person. She is the CEO and Co-founder of AiVF, an Israeli FemTech startup specializing in the area of fertility treatment. Daniella is an embryologist, a biostatistician, an entrepreneur and an IVF researcher. Her vast experience in embryology is what led Daniella co-found AiVF. The company works on improving the in vitro fertilization process. AiVF has shown that the genetic characteristics in embryos can be determined through a noninvasive procedure using artificial intelligence tech.
Founded in 2018, by CEO Daniella Gilboa together with Daniel Seidman, AiVF states that it was established to help people who dream of having a child, and the doctors and clinics that support this dream. “We are fundamentally transforming the IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatment journey with a unique combination of patent-pending advanced artificial intelligence technology, extensive clinical expertise, and vast sets of visual and other types of fertility data from around the globe,” says the company.
So why is this important? Well, today doctors must first remove a woman’s embryos and then subject them to biopsy (removal of cells), after which they are transferred back into the uterus. This procedure is costly and takes time to complete. Now, however, AiVF may have made a major breakthrough using artificial intelligence so that the embryos no longer need to be removed before they can be checked for viability.
Daniella Gilboa is an embryologist — a type of biologist trained for IVF. Daniella explained the problem with IVF as it exists today is that “IVF is done very primitively today. It’s more of an art, based on gut feelings and so forth, so I wanted to bring in professional analytics instead of subjective human analysis.”
The corps issue, for her and all embryologists, explains Daniella is that they must predict which embryo could become a baby. “This is the million-dollar question for embryologists,” she says.
AiVF explains that today, the “art” of IVF relies on manual and intuitive processes. The company says that this leads to “highly unpredictable time frames and outcomes,” and that this causes patients a “massive emotional, physical and financial drain.”
Daniella performed her military service in the IDF Spokesman’s Unit as a press officer. She served as a liaison between the IDF and the domestic and foreign media and general public, where she developed and implemented IDF public relations policies. After the army, she studied science in college and completed a Master of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Tel Aviv University.
Daniella understands how important it is for people to start a family, and their disappointment at not being able to do so. She has three children herself. Daniella was living in Singapore when her first child was born. Becoming a mother filled her with a desire to help anyone who wants to have a baby be able to do so. This is why Daniella chose to go into embryology, because she thinks that it is, “the noblest profession in the world, I miss it terribly.”
“I chose embryology because you get the opportunity to know that you are helping a couple and changing their lives for the better. It’s the gift of life.”
She established AVIF while a PhD student, after her advisor said that Daniella should take her research and make it into a startup instead. “Why waste time in school when you can go out there and make things happen?” she said. But Daniella felt that she only knew how to be an academic, speaking only the language of a scientist. So she spent months just talking to people to learn about how to start a new company and how to communicate her ideas to potential investors.
In Israel, IVF is subsidized by the national health plans for couples who wish to conceive. But the assistance is limited. Most everywhere else in the world, like America, people must pay for it out of pocket, unless they already have really great insurance. England offers some support for IVF as does Australia and Scandinavia, but this is limited to only a few tries and the success rates are low. So as with all health care, the wealthy have better access to fertility treatments.
So what will AIVF do about this? Daniella declares that “we will help all the people who need IFV get it, not just the wealthy who can afford it. The high costs sadly cause many people to just give up on the dream of having a baby.”
The new process offered by AIVF will hopefully bring down the costs by making it faster, cheaper and easier to undergo fertility treatments. Daniella says that she hopes that this will “democratize” IVF. “AI and high tech are great at leveling the playing field. I think it’s a team effort here at our company.”
The AiVF platform, promises the company, will enable full transparency for all stakeholders in the IVF process, and ensure that the entire IVF journey is consistent, predictable and cost-effective.
Daniella Gilboa is also making her mark on the future of embryology as a teacher. She currently teaches classes on human reproduction and advanced biostatistics at Tel Aviv University in the Faculty of Medicine, Graduate Program. Daniella also speaks worldwide on IVF in general as well utilizing deep technology in making IVF more effective and accessible.
Let’s hope that she succeeds in both of these endeavors. The above, and more, are why we have chosen to name Daniella Gilboa Jewish Business News Entrepreneur of the Month for July 2021.