Univfy looks to hack family planning with affordable online fertility tests

By Michael Carney , written on January 15, 2013

From The News Desk

To many Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs, biotech is a foreign concept. Sarah Lacy recently compared investing in IT and biotech out of the same fund like munching on “nuts and gum” as opposed to “chocolate and peanut butter.”

But while the traditional IT set may not be pivoting to life sciences, there is definitely more capital and buzz flowing into the sector. While it may not boast the same returns as consumer Internet home runs, life sciences deals often impact many more lives far more deeply than the latest social photo sharing app.

Today, Univfy, which provides online fertility tests for those considering in vitro fertilization (IVF), launched and announced an accompanying charitable campaign. The company uses technology developed through Stanford University research that gives couples personalized analytics that can help predict the likely success rates of IVF and help them make informed decisions. Oddly enough, the company has refused to tell us how they are funded or whether they are venture backed. We're not sure why. There's similarly, no information we could find on its website about it.

Univfy offers two online personal health data questionnaires that patients complete in the privacy of their own homes. PreIVF is designed for women considering IVF for the first time, while PredictIVF is aimed at those women who have had IVF previously and are considering another IVF treatment. Accompanying each questionnaire are two simple laboratory tests, which many users will have already received from their infertility doctors. Women will need to complete a hormonal blood test called Day 3 FSH, while men will need to undergo a semen analysis.

Univfy gathers data from these tests and the submitted questionnaires and compares it to thousands of previous IVF cycles. The result is a quick personalized prediction of IVF success that is the company says is 1,000 times more accurate than current age-based estimates. The company describes this as the industry’s first “validated and quantified measure of a patient’s personalized chances of success with IVF.” It's like 23andMe for your fertility-- as opposed to genetic-- future.

“We believe the delivery of highly personalized prognostics enables patients to make more confident decisions about their treatment options and to access care sooner,” says Univfy co-founder and CEO Mylene Yao, M.D..

Univfy PreIVF costs $99, while PredictIVF cost $350. It's a consumer-friendly price point, given the tens of thousands of dollars families spend on fertility treatments. Unlike other biotech companies, Univfy doesn’t have the financial and regulatory burden of FDA testing, because the tests don’t diagnose any diseases, or advise patients towards any particular treatment.

In conjunction with its launch, the company announced a partnership with RESOLVE: the National Infertility Association, a non-profit that helps couples struggling with infertility. The startup will donate 5 percent of the proceeds of the online sales of its Univfy tests to RESOLVE.

While personalized medicine has been a much-buzzed about promise since the genome was decoded, Unify's approach hits at a big market looking for better solutions, with a reasonable price point. It may take a while-- like 23andme-- to find mainstream adoption, but the need is definitely there.