Rising infertility concerns fuel growth of male-focused innovative startups

Anna Vod · April 25, 2024 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/5870

Fertility treatments are more relevant than ever; here are a few startups pioneering new solutions

In today’s context of gender-affirming care, puberty blockers have escaped the confines of medical conditions and are now administered to children to stall the development of unwanted secondary sex characteristics. While major medical associations are trying to mainstream the use of these blockers, there are no longitudinal studies to support the proliferation. In fact, there are many objections, considering the consequence of such blockers, including the risks of ignoring underlying mental health concerns, and the risks of barrenness in males. A new preprint data from Mayo Clinic suggested puberty blockers in boys could lead to infertility in men.

This study has yet to undergo peer review and publication before we can pinpoint the direction of blame. But there's ample evidence that these blockers are not ready for prime-time. Just look at the UK's own health system, which banned puberty blockers earlier this year, due to lack of safety and evidence of clinical efficacy. 

It is a wonder therefore that such healthcare procedures would be pushed when male infertility is already a challenge. A global study looking at the years between 1990 and 2017 showed male infertility rising every year. The reason? Studies suggest obesity, poor diet and exposure to toxic chemicals have contributed to a decline in sperm count.  

Nonetheless, when there is a problem, there's innovation to fix that. Venture capital investments in male infertility are rising. At the same time, providers of fertility services and benefits alike are jumping on this growing trend with some focusing on male fertility just as much, or more so than, female services.

Here are a few among those charging ahead in this space. Next Life Sciences is developing Plan A – a male contraceptive in the form of a hydrogel that is non-hormonal, long-lasting, and reversible. The startup, founded in 2020, announced its $2.5 seed round in January and has lately been getting some coverage by news media visiting its Flagstaff lab. With this new product, some women could potentially free themselves of the birth control pill.

Contraline is developing another vas deferens hydrogel solution – it calls it an implant named ADAM that would provide men with long-lasting contraception. “It's like the IUD, for men,” the website proclaims. The company, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, raised its $10.7 million Series A in 2021 and $7.2 million in a GV-led round in 2022.

Then there’s Posterity Health, men’s go-to digital male fertility platform. The company, which raised $7.5 million last year, advertises personalized advice, educational resources, and effective treatments for men. Vasectomies and their reversal, semen analysis and conservation, gender-affirmative care, as well as testosterone management, are some services this Colorado-based startup provides.

Boston-based Legacy, which has been backed celebrities and raised $45 million over the past few years, offers at-home sperm services like analysis, DNA fragmentation, and freezing. And Dadi, a startup that created a fancy sperm collection kit for collection, analysis, and storage, was acquired by a NYC telehealth provider Ro in 2022.

These are just a handful of players in the field, but their emergence, as well as their success stories and backing, breaks the stigma and brings to surface the conversations that were previously taboo. Thanks to these providers, parenthood becomes more accessible, while the environment for people seeking help becomes more supportive.

I did my best to refrain from taking sides on puberty blockers administering in this story. I just haven’t walked in those shoes myself to voice my judgment. I will say, however, that when drugs are avoidable –better not take them. The pharmaceutical business in America is, after all, first and foremost – business. These giants have proved themselves untrustworthy again and again.

Thanks to these fertility clinics springing up and offering innovative services, parent wannabes have more options than ever. But there must be a better way than getting treated for something caused by treatment.

Note: Join us for our conversation: The Future of Fertility, May 22 from 4pm PT-6 pm PT online. Panelists: Bambi Francisco Roizen (Founder and CEO, Vator); Dr. Archana Dubey (Chief Medical Officer, United Healthcare); Dr. Jean Gekas (CEO, Genoscience); La Keisha Landrum Pierre (Partner, Emmeline Ventures); Dr. Tammy Mahaney (Suncoast Ventures)

Image: Posterity Health, Ro, Contraline, Legacy, Next Life Sciences

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes