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Epigenetics is the study of how behaviors and environment can cause changes to the way genes work
One in eight couples have trouble getting pregnant, and the reasons for that can be varied, yet fertility is still thought of mostly as women's health issue, meaning the actual issues often go undiagnosed and untreated.
'Fertility testing and treatments almost entirely focuses on the female partner, yet 50% of infertility is due to male factors," Andy Olson, co-founder and CEO of Inherent Biosciences, which uses epigenetics to raise the standard of care for male fertility, told VatorNews.
Epigenetics, as defined by the CDC, is "the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work." That means it's actually getting to the root causes of fertility issues and going beyond the current standard of care, which Olson says is "looking at sperm with a microscope, counting how many sperm are there, and how many are swimming."
"We're aiming to raise the standard of care in male reproductive health by applying the latest in molecular technology to this gap," he explained.
On Tuesday, the company announced it raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from an investor group led by Propel Bio Partners, along with what the company calls "numerous stakeholders from patients to physicians and reproductive healthcare executives," including Portfolia’s FemTech II Fund and Alliance of Angels. This follows the company's seed funding round, from MedMountain Ventures, Kickstart Funds, Park City Angels, Rhythm VC and several angel investors, in February 2021.
Founded in 2019, the Salt Lake City-based Inherent Biosciences currently has two products currently on the market: PATH SpermQT, an epigenetic sperm quality test that can predict the need for assisted reproductive technologyl; and PATH SpermAge, which can calculate sperm's biological age.
The company works with fertility clinics and the providers in these clinics, positioning SpermQT, along with the standard semen analysis, aka looking at sperm with a microscope, for the initial evaluation of the male partner at the beginning of the fertility journey.
The reason the company chose to go after the fertility, Olson explained, is because he had friends who were going through fertility treatment, which took years and around $80,000, mostly out of pocket, only for their doctor to say they had "un-explained infertility".
"One in eight couples experience infertility, so it's a huge problem that is growing as people wait longer to have children. The female partner takes the unfair burden, but there's a big gap on the male side, and new technology that can help," he said.
Inherent Bioscience entered the market this year and has around 25 providers piloting SpermQT. The company has been able to show that a provider doing 120 procedures spends $50,000 on Inherent's testing, they achieve an ROI of $450,000 in incremental revenue by getting patients to the procedure sooner that is most likely to work.
"There is a very high drop-out rate as patients do procedures that don't work. We guide treatment early to the procedure that is most likely to work and so they have fewer patients dropping out of care," said Olson.
The funding will allow Inherent to scale commercial operations and generate the further seminal data necessary to add SpermQT to the standard of care through additional prospective studies. The company will also expand its pipeline to areas such as offspring health and cancer, both of which have been shown to be influenced by epigenetics.
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