23andMe and Women’s Health Startup Celmatix Combine Forces To Research Genes Affecting Infertility

Humans have been having humans for hundreds of thousands of years as part of our genetic drive so it seems counter-Darwinian that some genes might work against our ability to make a baby. But that is exactly what certain genes might be doing, according to women’s health startup Celmatix, and they are now working with 23andMe to hopefully figure out why.

Celmatix tries to take the guesswork out of getting pregnant based on certain data points, but that data can uncover some fascinating reasons for infertility. Founder Piraye Yurttas Beim says those reasons can range from the boring old dormant genes get passed on for generations until someone has a problem trying to conceive to a newer reason – a lot of women are delaying childbirth for a longer period than we ever have.

“That opens up a whole new set of factors,” Beim told TechCrunch. She rattled off a bunch of those factors such as endometriosis and lower egg count as we get older that affect conception in a woman’s later years. “We’re in territory we haven’t been before,” she said.

But much of that territory is unknown when it comes to genetics. Roughly 12 percent of women aged 15-44 have trouble getting pregnant or carrying the baby to term, according to the CDC. While not all fertility problems rest on a woman’s uterus – and not all of it is genetic – more research could clear up the murkiness.

23andMe is likely a good partner to help Celmatix in the process. The consumer genetics company has gathered a massive amount of data from years of collecting our saliva samples. Some of that data could help Celmatix scientists unlock the underlying reasons a woman might be having trouble conceiving.

The collaboration will also enable the development of early screening tests. These types of tests could help OBGYNs identify women at risk for a premature decline of their ovarian function, which has both infertility and broader health implications.

How does this help 23andMe? Celmatix says it has already discovered 5,200 genetic biomarkers related to fertility – 23andMe could harness that information and share it with researchers on the platform in the future – or, FDA willing, with consumers.

Celmatix has worked for six years in partnership with the top fertility centers in the world to vet, validate, and discover novel genetic biomarkers that will dramatically impact the diagnosis and treatment of infertility,” Beim said. “This collaboration allows us to further accelerate this work with the amazing dedication of the 23andMe research community.”

The FDA authorized 23andMe to provide carrier status information to its customers last fall, including information on 36 diseases. The company now offers that data to consumers who send off a spit tube. Whether the new fertility-related information will be available to the public is not yet known. 23andMe says it will “work through the FDA for any additional health-related information” it provides to customers in the future.