IFLG-AI-Improves-Outcomes,-Reduces-Costs,-in-Assisted-Reproductive-Technology

AI Improves Outcomes, Reduces Costs, in Assisted Reproductive Technology

Exciting new tools are using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve success rates for assisted reproduction technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy, resulting in fewer procedures, lower costs and greater accessibility for more people.

One of the reasons I began to practice exclusively in assisted reproductive technology and fertility law was the excitement of the rapidly evolving field, as scientific advancements such as genomics, nanotechnology and cryopreservation continued to make parenthood a possibility for more and more people.

Technology, harnessed to serve the best interests of humanity, solves problems.

Technological advances have already improved outcomes for assisted reproduction, refining the in vitro fertilization (IVF) and implantation processes. Two decades ago, accepted practice was to implant multiple embryos to improve the odds that at least one would survive, resulting in a high incidence of twin and multiple births, with the attendant risks to babies and mothers or surrogates. As improved technology led to higher success rates, the industry best practice evolved to recommend implantation of a single embryo, significantly addressing the problem of multiple births with IVF.

The field of assisted reproduction faces other problems, including the high costs and scarcity of insurance coverage for fertility treatments such as IVF, which can put them financially out of reach for many people.

According to a 2019 National Institutes of Health report, “Artificial intelligence in reproductive medicine,” “The overall success of reproduction, either spontaneously of after ART, is highly dependent upon the quality of oocytes.” Currently, each egg retrieved via assisted reproduction has a 4.5 percent chance of resulting in pregnancy.

By improving the ability of IVF physicians to identify the eggs most likely to be fertilized and the embryos most likely to thrive, AI applications have the potential to minimize the number of IVF cycles. In the United States, medical costs for a single IVF cycle may range between $12,000 and $15,000, plus another $1,500 to $3,000 for medications. Reducing cost is one of the best ways to make assisted reproduction more affordable and thus more accessible, for everyone.

Artificial Intelligence Improves Sperm, Egg, Embryo Selection

Among the most exciting new advancements is the growing use of AI, specifically machine learning (ML) techniques, to improve outcomes in assisted reproduction. As reported recently in a Forbes column, a UK-Canadian team has launched VIOLET™, an AI computer algorithm that has the ability to predict egg fertilization with 77 percent accuracy and to predict blastocyst embryo development with 62 percent accuracy. The UK partner, CARE Fertility, found the program to be more accurate than its own embryologists, by 12 percent for egg selection and by 18 percent for blastocyst embryo selection.

One of the most promising applications of the new VIOLET program, CARE leading embryologist Dr. Alison Campbell told Forbes, “is for people who wish to preserve their fertility.

“For the first time, people who freeze their eggs can receive a report that not only includes images of each of their eggs, but also predicts the likelihood of them becoming a blastocyst-stage embryo (an important marker of their health) and helps indicate the ideal number of eggs which should be frozen to best preserve fertility.”

In 2020, Weill Cornell Medicine reported on a team of researchers there who created a “deep neural network—a class of AI algorithms modeled after the neurons in a biological brain,” dubbed “Stork,” then put it through a “deep learning” process, in which it was shown 12,000 photos of human embryos 110 hours after fertilization, which is the blastocyst stage. Each embryo photo was labeled “good” or “poor” based on embryologists’ assessments and actual pregnancy results. Following that training, Stork was able to assess additional new embryos correctly with 97 percent accuracy—far better than any individual embryologist on his or her own.

Another promising AI application to improve embryo selection was recently introduced by an Israeli startup, Embryonics, which hopes for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval by the end of 2021, according to Mobihealthnews.com. The application, called Ubar, “uses geometric deep learning, the next generation of machine learning, in a clinical setting.” The application also is being used to create customized hormonal treatment for IVF patients and in selecting eggs for cryopreservation.

According to the NIH report, an AI application developed in 2017 is able to determine the motility of human sperm and identify abnormalities with 89.92 percent accuracy. Researchers were working on automated systems for grading the viability of human embryos as far back as 2012. AI also is being used to create prediction models that offer would-be parents an objective analysis of their prospects for attaining pregnancy as well as helping tailor treatment to improve outcomes.

AI Could Solve Problem of Abandoned Embryos

Yet another AI innovation uses facial recognition technology to help intended parents ensure their donor-conceived child will look like them.

Often intended parents who are using assisted reproduction hope for a baby who will look just like them. Exciting new platforms, such as Fenomatch, are using AI technology to identify donor egg or sperm most likely to result in a baby who bears similar facial features to the intended mom or dad.

If this technology is eventually developed to match the facial biometrics of blastocyst embryos, it might help to solve another big problem—the thousands of unused frozen embryos that result from assisted reproduction, many later “abandoned” in frozen storage, as we reported earlier.

Many clinics today offer intended parents, once they have created their families, the option to donate unused embryos, and the use of existing, donated embryos offers a lower-cost option for many infertile couples. However, many of the agencies offering embryo “adoption” are faith-based organizations that discriminate against LGBTQ and single intended parents, as we wrote recently The use of facial recognition AI in donor selection could go a long way toward encouraging the use of donor embryos… and over the long-run, could reduce the number of “abandoned” embryos.

AI Reduces Number of IVF Cycles, Improves Pregnancy Rates, Reduces Costs

Twelve years ago, when my spouse and I became fathers to twin boys via egg donation, IVF and surrogacy, we relied solely on the expertise and experience of our IVF providers, first to evaluate and select the healthiest eggs for fertilization from our egg donor, then following fertilization, to select the healthiest and most viable embryos for implantation. The process was not seamless. On our first IVF cycle, we ended up with three viable embryos, all of which were implanted. No pregnancy resulted. The second time around, we ended up with four viable embryos. This time, our surrogate got pregnant, and we became dads to twins.

We were lucky; we had the financial means to persevere and undertake a second round of IVF, with the attendant costs, in order to fulfill our dreams of parenthood. Many couples don’t have that advantage. But with the second IVF cycle, we, too, felt the financial pressure to implant multiple embryos, knowing that we might not be able to afford a third round.

If we were beginning our journey to parenthood today, lots of things would be different. With significantly improved outcomes resulting from technological advances, our IVF physician today most likely would advise us to implant only a single embryo. While there is no substitute for the knowledge and expertise of experienced IVF physicians and embryologists, some form of AI would probably be utilized to offer objective analysis and improve the odds of success.

Machine learning is still a new technology that is advancing by leaps and bounds. As more data on assisted reproduction selection and outcomes becomes available, the computer’s ability to assess and predict will become more and more accurate. Ultimately, technological advancements such as AI will remove the guesswork and human shortcomings from assisted reproductive technologies, making it safer, easier and cheaper for everyone who wants to become a parent to achieve that dream.

For information on how to ensure your family via ART and your parental rights are legally protected, contact the experienced fertility lawyers at IFLG today.

 

Rich Vaughn
Rich Vaughn
bonnie@writeawaypr.com

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Katie Deaquino
KATIE DEAQUINO
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Alexander Espinoza
ALEXANDER ESPINOZA
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Toni Hughes
TONI BOONE
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler
PHOEBE S. SADLER
Associate

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan
RUBINA ASLANYAN
Paralegal

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Cara Stecker
CARA STECKER
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble
STEPHANIE KIMBLE
Paralegal

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
TRISH PITTMAN
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Elsa Jimenez
ELSA JIMENEZ
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.