By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
New York — Prelude Fertility launched with $200 million funded by serial entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky, Reproductive Biology Associates (RBA), and My Egg Bank North America (MEB).
Prelude is focused on providing proactive fertility care to people who wish to delay childbirth. It uses The Prelude Method, a four-step process including egg and sperm freezing, genetic testing, embryo creation and single-embryo transfer.
The company’s primary founder is Martin Varsavsky, who has launched numerous previous successful businesses—and not coincidentally, at the age of 56, has six children, with a seventh on the way. His companies include Urban Capital, Medicorp Sciences, Viatel, Jazztel, EINSTEINet, Ya.com, Eolia and FON.
Prelude plans to target women in their late 20s to mid-30s. Often, women dealing with infertility issues tend to be older, but part of the concept with Prelude is to harvest and store eggs when the women are younger and the eggs are generally healthier. It’s not a particularly new concept, although Varsavsky wants to scale it up. He bought a majority stake in RBA, which is the largest in vitro fertilization clinic in the Southeast, and My Egg Bank is the biggest frozen donor egg bank in the U.S. Prelude is currently operating out of an RBA facility in Atlanta.
Women who go through the harvesting procedure then will have their eggs stored frozen by Prelude, who will charge a monthly fee starting at $199.
“If you know that your eggs are safe and sound, what decisions would you make about your life?” said Allison Johnson to Forbes. Johnson is a marketing executive at Apple. Her marketing firm, West, is working to develop Prelude’s marketing plans. “That’s what’s really exciting about this. Go pursue that graduate degree. Wait for your soul mate. Go travel the world. Your eggs are waiting for you. For me that’s as liberating for women as the pill was in the 60s.”
On the other hand, waiting will cost a minimum of $2,400 a year in storage fees, which will add up if the women wait five, six, ten years or more. It’s also, as Forbes notes, “an industry associated with failure: Roughly two-thirds of IVG cycles produce no baby, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART).”
To date, although the technology has been around for about 30 years, not a lot of women have chosen to freeze their eggs. In 2014, only about 6,200 did. There has apparently been more interest with celebrities such as Sofia Vergara and Kim Kardashian publicly discussing their own experiences.
And although the overall procedures seem safe, there are criticisms. “Retrieving multiple eggs involves injections of powerful hormones, some of them used off-label and never approved for egg extraction,” said Marcy Darnovsky, the executive director of the Center for Genetics & Society, in what Forbes describes as a widely cited critique. “The short-term risks range from mild to very severe, and the long-term risks are uncertain because they haven’t been adequately studied.”
Forbes writes, “But in some ways, concerns about the cost miss the point. Young women don’t freeze their eggs in order to pursue IVF in the future. They freeze them to have the option—an insurance policy that unwinds the biological clock and lets women pursue career advancement as freely as men without having to compromise in their choice of partner. If those frozen eggs are never used, such is the cost of peace of mind.”
The Forbes article, perhaps because it’s Forbes, seems to focus on careers, although it’s possible that the procedures and Prelude’s services would also be more likely to be utilized by single women with no partners who hope to someday have a child, but worry they may be too old to. At least, if they can afford the procedure and the storage fees.
Varsavsky will act as Prelude’s chief executive officer. Geoff Crouse will be the interim president and serve on the board. Crouse was previously the chief executive officer of Cord Blood Registry. TV doctor, Mehmet Oz, will also join the company’s board.
“Martin, Geoff and Dr. Oz, and the outstanding physicians at MEB and RBA, create a dream team to transform the fertility industry through premier medicine and broader adoption of vitrification services,” said Barry Baker, a senior advisor to Lee Equity, in a statement.