Healthtech/News/

Fertility-as-a-service startup Béa Fertility raises $1m

Béa’s insemination-at-home service sounds kind of wacky but, if it works, it could transform fertility treatment.

By Kai Nicol-Schwarz

Around one in seven have trouble conceiving — and the barriers to entry for clinic-based fertility treatment are high. In the UK, it can cost up to £5k or more for one round of IVF, and many people aren’t eligible for what free treatment is available. 

Béa Fertility, a UK-based ‘fertility-as-a-service’ startup which is today announcing a $1m pre-seed raise, hopes to solve some of those challenges. 

Launching towards the end of 2021, Béa Fertility plans to offer at-home fertility treatment as a monthly subscription service — the first of its kind — along with access to an app and a support community and network of experts.  

Its treatment is yet to go through clinical trials — but if it works (and is approved by medical regulators) it could be revolutionary.

“Infertility is sadly still a taboo and something we don’t talk enough about”

“Infertility is sadly still a taboo and something we don’t talk enough about,” says Béa CEO and cofounder Tess Cosad. “Through Béa, we’re breaking down barriers, driving inclusion, improving access, and fundamentally cracking open the fertility market.”

Béa Fertility cofounders Tess Cosad and David O’Rourke

Breaking down the barriers for entry

Currently, for those who are unable to conceive naturally there are two main treatments available, either with intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Both must be taken at a fertility clinic. 

In the UK, treatment is exclusive, and expensive. To be eligible through the NHS a range of criteria must be met — you could miss out because you’re a single parent or haven’t been in a relationship for three years. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) sets out the guidelines for clinic-based fertility treatment in the UK, but regional clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) define the treatment eligibility criteria themselves. 

“It can be so arbitrary,” Cosad told Sifted. “CCGs will often put limits on BMI [body mass index], you can’t be a smoker, you’ve got to be less than 35 years old. The one that I find particularly contentious is most [CCGs] won’t provide treatment for single women.”

“Who decides that?… There are single mothers who have a support system the size of the village that doesn’t necessarily incorporate a partner,” she adds.

Although NICE says that all women under 40 should be eligible for three cycles of IVF, only about 12% of the UK’s regional CCGs offer that, Cosad says.

In 2018, just 35% of IVF treatment was funded by the NHS in England. Privately, one cycle of IVF can cost upwards of £5k and one IUI treatment can cost over £1.5k. 

Béa’s fertility treatment will cost around £300 a month, and the method used — intracervical insemination (ICI) — has been scientifically proven to have similar efficacy rates to the now widely used clinic-based IUI treatments (5-20%), Cosad told Sifted. 

How it works

Béa’s treatment involves placing a small cup of semen close to the cervix for two consecutive days in a month — a strategy called double insemination — and leaving it there for four to 12 hours. During that time, women can go about their days normally. 

According to Béa, double insemination can increase success rates by 9% in any given month. Over the course of three months (or around six cycles of the procedure) the treatment can improve the chances of conception by 40%, rising to 60% after six months, it says.

Customers will receive a kit, designed to take the user through 30 days of treatment. The kit includes ovulation tests, insemination devices, pregnancy tests, semen sample collection pots and access to an app to help track ovulation dates and reach a support network.

Béa Fertility at-home treatment kit

Masculinity, virility and fertility

Considering the gender gap in the investment scene, it’s noteworthy that Béa’s cap table is 50% female.

That might be a sign of how gendered perspectives on fertility treatment can be, but Cosad tells us that attitudes are changing.

One in four couples in the developed world are touched by infertility in some way”

“One in four couples in the developed world are touched by infertility in some way, and so it’s not just a female problem. For too long, women have borne the responsibility for fertility. In our society there’s so much around masculinity, virility and fertility,” Cosad says. 

“We’re starting to see men who have historically not played a significant role in fertility treatment now stepping up. There’s a lot of movement towards acknowledging infertility in men.”

Indeed, the fertility industry has raised millions in VC funds over the last few years. This comes alongside the rise of the femtech sector more broadly, with Clue, Ava and Natural Cycles all big players in the space.

Road to market

Béa Fertility is looking to launch at the end of 2021, but still has a number of hoops to jump through before it reaches that stage. 

This funding round, which was led by Austria-based Calm/Storm Ventures, joined by early-stage VC Q Ventures and included a grant from the UK government-backed Innovate UK Smart Grants, will allow it to take the product from prototype to carrying out clinical studies. Béa will then apply for medical device certification in the UK, the EU and the US. After that there’s likely to be a limited release to a small cohort of early adopters. 

Then there is the ‘digital health experience’ that comes with at-home medical treatments. 

“You cannot just ship an artificial insemination device to someone’s front door and expect them to use a little paper instruction pamphlet,” Cosad says. “They need so much more support and we want to be able to give that to them.”

“The issues are even worse for families who are non-binary, same sex, or using known donor sperm”

The goal is to build a community aspect to the product that supports all those involved in the process, especially underserved segments.

“Men don’t really have the channels to talk about infertility and get support, and the issues are even worse for families who are non-binary, same sex, or using known donor sperm,” Cosad adds. “We want to create a platform where those communities can flourish.”

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is Sifted’s editorial lead for membership. He tweets from @NicolSchwarzK

8
Join the conversation

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
chelsea
chelsea

This isn’t comparable to IUI or IVF at all and the only interesting thing in the kits is the cervical cup, but you can just buy and use SoftDiscs instead. This is not actually “fertility treatment” and does not improve anyone’s access to “fertility treatment” and it’s honestly kind of insulting to infertile couples that they are claiming that it is. overpriced ripoff and you could easily go on amazon and purchase alternatives to all of the things included in the kit.

Just another crappy company trying to make a quick buck off of infertile couples

Tracey Sainsbury
Tracey Sainsbury

So useful, not just for heterosexual couples experiencing infertility, but for people conceiving with a known donor or co-parenting hoping to conceive at home who are comfortable with the UK legal system ….hope you will also offer #implicationscounselling #fertilitycounselling

Vanessa Poole
Vanessa Poole

Try stork, it’s thesame exact kit…. https://www.storkotc.com/

Nanteza Molly
Nanteza Molly

Kindly advise me if my my AMH are low. How to increase them.

Susan
Susan

Rebecca Fetts book: it starts with the egg has some good information.

Susan
Susan

Love this concept and wish the founders well during trials. Will keep eyes peeled for updates on this business.

Vanessa Poole
Vanessa Poole

Try stork, it’s the exact same thing….https://www.storkotc.com/

Nanteza Molly
Nanteza Molly

It’s very ok and interesting.