Why ImVitro ?
by Alexandra Boussommier 21 March 2022
It is generally said that you can get to the bottom of any question by asking close to 5 consecutive “Why?”. To inaugurate ImVitro’s blog, I decided to go through this exercise myself to dig deep into why I started this company and to set the tone for what I want to become a place for people to find uniquely curated insights into IVF, medtech and more generally, the world of startups.
So, let me first respond to the first hidden “why?”: why should you care about this article and this blog? I’d imagine that this could be interesting, if:
- You are an IVF expert who wants to be part of the inevitable & transformative AI-driven changes about to come
- You go through IVF yourself and wonder about innovations in the field that could help you
- You know someone that is going through IVF and you want to better understand their journey
- You are interested in joining ImVitro
- You are interested in learning what it entails to start or to join a medtech company
- You are an investor interested in understanding the vision behind ImVitro
Why did I start ImVitro?
Simply because I strongly believe that cell culture will be paramount to all of medicine and is already to at least one of its fields today: the fertility sector and IVF. I am a biomedical engineer that has done her research around tissue and cell culture, and I came out of my research frustrated with the lack of automation that could lead to human mistakes and delays in delivering my science to doctors and patients. When I decided to start my company, I looked for medical applications that revolved around cell culture & microscopy only to discover IVF as one of the most beautiful applications of cell culture: that is, culturing embryos in the lab to create life and an easier path to parenthood.
Why (help create an easier path to parenthood)?
I am convinced that much of medical innovation today should go towards improving quality of life. To many people today, having children is a genuine and long-lasting source of happiness. For a concerningly growing number of people, this cannot happen naturally, and even for those who do decide to go through IVF, it can be a frustratingly tedious and often unsuccessful journey, with up to 70% of cycles failing. I want to not have to hear again of patients that have gone through numerous traumatic miscarriages. I simply want anyone to be able to make the conscious choice of having a family or not, without feeling deprived of what looks like a life-altering experience, especially now that more and more people are delaying their decision of having a family. I want to work on a technology (namely, IVF) that makes it plainly obvious that being able to conceive is a biological miracle which should not be taken for granted. Working day to day on IVF makes us contemplate why and how we have children, thus generating some well-needed debates over topics that can be taboo to this day. In other words, I want ImVitro to be at the edge of societal changes.
Why (be at the edge of societal changes)?
Being at the forefront of societal changes turns us into actors who must face the music and open their eyes to the reasons that polarize people; being a passive spectator is not an option. I very much am aware that, like much of any new technology, IVF can open many new ethical and societal doors. ImVitro is not about agreeing to systematically open all these doors, but about carefully choosing which ones to help open, when, and why. Being at the heart of such changes makes us responsible for debating these issues with numerous stakeholders, and reminds us that while what we try to do is not easy, it will be incredibly rewarding once it has the positive intended impact on society at large. I want ImVitro to be the change I want to see in society, and one of the more tangible ways to promote it is to build the team that will make these changes happen with you.
Why (build a team)?
There is absolutely nothing like being able to recruit the people you work with every day and that make up your professional world. While you will necessarily make recruiting mistakes, when you are successful, it is incredibly rewarding to work with people that you trust, admire, and want to see rewarded as they grow into (even bigger) superstars. I love being able to set my own standards as to what talent is and should be at ImVitro, regardless of what school you went to, and focusing on what people have done to get outside of their comfort zones and grow as a result. I wanted to start a team that would share some core values, while allowing room for diversity, for each to bring their unique grain of salt to the ImVitro table. I want to keep building a unique team that shares the belief that authentic science is at the heart of all our futures, and that they are shaping this future.
Why (deliver science)?
Now we get to the bottom of things: I am a scientist at heart and am in awe every day as to how science continuously changes the world for good. I see many parallels between scientists and entrepreneurs: we want to contribute by creating insights and/or products that address unresolved needs. Your job is to always be probing your market, testing “commercial” hypotheses and gathering data to support your decisions almost in an experimental manner. But as much as I loved my time as a researcher, I wanted to package science into a tangible product early on, thus turning it into a reality and a product that can be regularly molded by the users and the market, while always having our eyes set on delivering ambitious and relevant R&D. I wanted to be in continuous contact with users to be on the lookout for other day-to-day needs we could help with.
I always say that we are a product-centric R&D company, which entails that we need to be producing intelligible science that can be understood and accepted by doctors. Let’s remember that we are here to help doctors & patients, who remain the final decision-makers and experts in their practice (patients can have a say in IVF, remember this is elective medicine): if you produce amazing science but cannot explain it nor convince end-users to trust it, all your work will have gone to waste. What I want above all, is for ImVitro to deliver an authentic product to doctors and patients, a need that is even more crucial at the time of introducing a new technology; as much as artificial intelligence has become a buzzword, it is, as of today, much less often used than we think in labs. I want ImVitro to not only produce “super-human” artificial intelligence that discovers new biomarkers which the scientific community might not have been able to spot, but also a product that empowers doctors to better produce new insights and science of their own through our SaaS platform and unique international databases.
Science needs to show humility, and there is nothing like training machine learning algorithms to make us realize the compromises that any intelligence, human or artificial, has to make. Artificial intelligence cannot be perfect, but it certainly can bring human intelligence to the next level, free some precious time and minimize our inherently human variability.
At the heart of ImVitro is the desire for our product to be trusted, used for good, and used to empower patients and doctors.
Let the blog begin!