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Piraye Beim

CEO & Founder, Celmatix

You’ve probably heard of BRCA1 and BRCA2, mutations that put women at a higher risk for breast cancer. Tests developed in the early 2000s can pinpoint the genes, allowing women to be proactive. It’s why Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy in 2013.

“That test was a huge advancement for women,” remembers 38-year-old molecular biologist Piraye Beim. “And it got me thinking: Is anyone decoding the genetic basis for infertility?”

According to the CDC, 7.5M American women face infertility. And if you’re one of them? It’s freaking expensive: A single round of in vitro fertilization (IVF) costs $15,000. One egg freezing cycle? $10,000. (Most states and insurers don’t cover fertility treatments, btw.)

“It’s often the most expensive, emotionally taxing part of a woman’s life,” Beim continues. “But what if you knew you carried genetic variants associated with infertility? Could start conceiving earlier or freeze eggs in your 20s? You might save money sooner, and that information is life changing.”

Enter Fertilome. Announced yesterday, it’s the first blood test from Beim’s New York-based startup, Celmatix. The goal? Identify the genetic causes of infertility and use that data to empower women.

Decoding the genetic cause of infertility.

[Infertility is] often the most expensive, emotionally taxing part of a woman's life.”

Without genetic testing, what are the current methods of addressing infertility?
“A doctor will likely ask you three questions: How old are you? How long have you been trying to conceive? And do you have any family history of infertility? But there’s so much more going on in the female body—patients deserve information… and that’s what Fertilome will allow us to do.”

Why aren’t those three questions effective?
“It’s not that those aren’t important factors, because they are, but times are changing. You might not think you have a family history of infertility, for example, because your mother and grandmother conceived in their early 20s. But if you wait to have a child until you’re 35, that datapoint may no longer be relevant.”

Why is this information so important?
“There are obvious scientific benefits—not wasting money on an ineffective treatment, for example. But the reaction is also very emotional. People want to know where they’re going, especially when it comes to their bodies. Take cancer. No doctor would tell a recently diagnosed patient, ‘Well, let’s do surgery and see how it goes.’ They would outline your personal journey: surgery, radiation, chemo. Having a cumulative view of your path can alleviate part of the struggle.”

Infertility today

No doctor would tell a recently diagnosed [cancer] patient, 'Well, let's do surgery and see how it goes.'”

This isn’t Celmatix’s first product, though, right?
“I started Celmatix about eight years ago, and our first product, Polaris, was a data analytics platform. Clinics pay for the software, which does two things: One, it provides doctors with a digital way of recording patient data—you would be shocked at how much is still done on paper. And two, it runs algorithms on millions of data points from other women who have struggled with infertility and provides those learning back to care providers. We discovered, for example, that most women would benefit from up to four rounds of IVF before they have maximized their chances of success; since most women give up after one or two failed cycles, many women who gave up on the treatment may have conceived if they’d hung in for one more cycle.”

Can you give us a more personal example?
“This one time I ran into a woman at a party who was having trouble conceiving. She had a very finite amount of money left for treatments, having spent most of her nest egg on non-IVF. I was able to share some statistics we learned from Polaris—for example, that an average woman in her early 40’s has a 90% chance of success after four cycles of IVF with a donor egg, but only a 5% chance with non-IVF—and she was able to shift courses before she ran out of money. One year later, I ran into her holding the most gorgeous baby girl.”

Starting Celmatix

Infertility obviously impacts women more than men. What do you think we can do to help one another cope?
“Talk about it… I’m very open about the fact that I’ve had four pregnancies and one miscarriage. It isn’t a topic to be avoided at cocktail parties—infertility isn’t something to be ashamed of. And the more open we can be, the more celebrities conceiving late in life who are open about using egg donors, the more we can help one another.”

And in the business world? 
“I would love to see more diversity at the venture capital level. When one demographic is in charge of funding, we’re often stuck with products made for that demographic… One other issue I’ve seen is hesitation when investing in a pregnant founder. What I’ll say is this: If that woman has had children before, and was able to temporarily step back from her company without it imploding, well, I can’t think of a better indicator of success.”

Fertility: A Female issue


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