With a women’s fertility declining just as they enter the full flush of their careers alongside their male counterparts (usually from the mid 20s to 30s) egg freezing has been on the rise. In 2014 only 6,200 women in the US opted to freeze their eggs to preserve their fertility. It took Apple’s and Facebook’s announcements of egg-freezing benefits — and perhaps a few celebrities making their choice to do so public — to fuel a surge of interest in the idea. Those companies did so because many of their best staff were taking career breaks to raise families. Until now no company has tried to wrap up the key four stages that really do ensure a woman’s fertility: eggs and sperm freezing (in the case of couples) in the peak fertility years (20s-30s); embryo creation; genetic screening for inherited diseases and abnormalities; and the final stage of embryo transfer into the woman’s body.
That company, Prelude, has now been born, and borne to a serial entrepreneur, Martín Varsavsky (pictured). He came up with the idea when he and his wife Nina experienced difficulty creating a family. “When my wife Nina was only 31, her AMH level was prematurely low and her cycles were irregular,” Varsavsky recently told Forbes magazine.
“Being a tech entrepreneur, I started researching her condition, and we decided to go straight for IVF as well as freeze sperm and eggs. We also added the most advanced genetic testing to the mix. The result was phenomenal, we now have two wonderful kids, Mia, 5, and David, 3, and a third one on the way. A fourth baby was born out of our own difficulties—Prelude!”
Now, Lee Equity Partners, Varsavsky, Reproductive Biology Associates (the largest in vitro fertilization clinic in the Southeast), and My Egg Bank North America (the largest frozen donor egg bank in the US) will create Prelude as a national fertility company. Lee Equity Partners has joined forces with Varsavsky to commit up to $200 million in equity to fund the acquisition and partnership with RBA and My Egg Bank. The four steps outlined above will come as a package, instead of being offered piecemeal from disparate companies.
Prelude will provide proactive fertility care to increase people’s chances of having healthy babies “when they’re ready”. This is the key point here. Prelude is, among other things, tapping into a desire of Millennials to get what they want, when they want it. It will do this initially not with a fear campaign (your body click is ticking!) but with a process of education, to get, as Varsavsky puts it, “Millennials to think ahead.”
The statistics appear to be in Prelude’s favor. Around 18% of women never get to have a baby, and another 20% have just one baby when they actually wanted more. If they can decide to egg-freeze earlier (then follow through with the other steps) they could increase the probability of having a healthy baby and decrease the chances of requiring often difficult infertility therapy later in life.
Prelude is effectively taking the idea of egg freezing, plus all the other baby-making processes, and wrapping it up into a Silicon-Valleyesque scaleable platform and simple message.
It will also cater to couples who may not be ready to have children, with sperm freezing for men. The whole thing will be pitched as affordable, with low upfront fees, but to keep the eggs safe and frozen, will cost $199 a month.
Of course, it will likely appeal to professional young women who want to continue with their career for a few more years and tip the balance in favour of having a family slightly later. This make it more like an insurance policy, not a ‘choice’ about opting for IVF in the future, which given its often high failure rate can be no choice at all.