Introducing: Tancho Markovik, VP of AI & Engineering

21.09.2023

At ImVitro, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by an inspiring group of people that challenges and celebrates one another. This is why we would like to share the first interview of many to spotlight the talent in our team! We sat down with our VP of AI & Engineering, Tancho Markovik, to learn more about his story and role at ImVitro.

Q: How long have you worked at ImVitro?

I joined in May 2023 – so about 6 months so far!

Q: What inspired you to work in the field of AI and engineering, particularly in the context of IVF?

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of technology and healthcare. My interest in AI and engineering, specifically in the context of IVF, was ignited by two main reasons. First and foremost, I was drawn to the potential for AI to revolutionize healthcare and improve lives as well as help people become parents.

Secondly, I had a personal experience with a close friend and a family member who faced challenges with fertility treatments. Witnessing their journey and the emotional rollercoaster they went through reinforced my commitment to this field. This problem is not only an engineering one; it’s biological. At ImVitro, we get a glimpse into the inception of life.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your current role?

As a startup, we possess the agility and speed to change direction quickly. This means that every pair of hands on a keyboard holds value. Additionally, the duration between decision-making and action-taking is notably brief. Messages do not undergo the extensive filtration process as I’ve seen happen in much bigger companies. That is not to say we rush our decisions, but instead, we put our collective minds to make something happen.

Q: What makes the tech at ImVitro unique?

From an AI perspective, we start a project by researching the current state of the art using academic portals. From there, we build an ML model using our own previous knowledge and then improve (or specialize) it based on our new research. This means building computer vision models which view embryos and discover new and notable aspects of its development and augment our prediction model of detecting a fetal heartbeat.

From an engineering perspective, the most unique aspect is we are completely serverless – for better or worse. I think this is quite exciting, and it’s a challenging topic. How serverless are we? We do not have any code running on anything except Lambda functions, which lets you build applications without provisioning or managing servers. So what? Well, you need to change your way of thinking. Everything needs to run quickly and efficiently, and if you do more than what you should your cost could explode. You need to make sure everything finishes within the 900-second Lambda execution limit.

Q: What are your biggest challenges?

Our most significant challenges are deeply intertwined with the essence of our work. When it comes to engineering, a key challenge lies in seamlessly integrating with the software used in clinics while ensuring scalability and practicality. This necessitates adapting to their specific systems in a manner that enhances efficiency and meaningfully addresses their unique requirements.

From the perspective of AI, our primary challenge revolves around delving into uncharted territory. We are continually exploring the unknown, striving to uncover both the factors that our customers are actively seeking and those they might not have considered. This involves pioneering new insights and solutions in the field, pushing the boundaries of what is currently understood in order to improve the success and efficiency of IVF treatments.

Q: What do you think is AI’s role in transforming IVF centers?

I believe that AI plays a pivotal role in the transformation of IVF centers. AI today is analogous to what computers were 30 years ago. Back then, IVF centers could function without computers, but their processes were slow, error-prone, and challenging. By 2000, nearly all clinics had integrated computers into their daily operations, and they couldn’t imagine functioning without them.

Using this analogy, AI is poised to bring a similar transformation to IVF centers. It holds the potential to enhance the likelihood of successful pregnancies and improve the overall performance of IVF treatments. AI can expedite the time to pregnancy and reduce the cost of achieving a pregnancy by optimizing various aspects of the IVF process. It provides the opportunity to analyze vast amounts of patient data, identify patterns, and make predictions that were previously impossible. In essence, AI empowers IVF centers to provide more efficient, cost-effective, and successful fertility treatments, ultimately giving hope to more people striving to become parents.

Q: Could you share any success stories?

One of the clinics we work with had a recurring couple who faced consecutive failures in their attempts to conceive a pregnancy. They decided to make one final attempt before considering adoption: during which, they utilized our software to identify the most suitable embryo from the cohort. Surprisingly, the software recommended one of the less obvious choices, which the clinician agreed to choose for transfer.

Remarkably, this particular embryo developed successfully and resulted in a successful pregnancy, fulfilling the couple’s dream of becoming parents. This event was truly significant for us, as it wasn’t the first choice for transfer by a human’s judgement, but the clinic trusted our algorithm and ultimately achieved their desired outcome.

Q: What recent developments or projects in AI and engineering at ImVitro are you most excited about?

At ImVitro, we are constantly pushing the boundaries of AI and engineering to make a meaningful impact on the field of IVF. One project that I’m particularly excited about is our ongoing work on developing an AI-powered embryo selection system. This system leverages cutting-edge computer vision technology to analyze and assess embryo quality with an unprecedented level of accuracy. By automating this crucial step in the IVF process, we aim to significantly improve the success rates of IVF treatments and reduce the emotional and financial burden on couples.

Another exciting development is our collaboration with leading IVF centers to create a cloud-based platform that allows for real-time monitoring of embryo development by means of building a “bridge” between the cloud and the clinic hardware. This project integrates AI-driven image analysis with secure and efficient data management, enabling clinics to make data-driven decisions in real-time. It stands as a testament to our commitment to improving the entire IVF process, from embryo selection to pregnancy success.

Q: What would you recommend to someone who wants to join the ImVitro tech team?

A collaborative spirit is essential. Our team thrives on collaboration and collective problem-solving. Being able to effectively communicate ideas, work seamlessly within a team, and contribute to a positive, supportive work environment are all highly regarded at ImVitro. And, of course, don’t forget to bring your smile!

Q: And finally, can you tell the readers a fun fact about yourself?

I love ancient archaeology and engaging in discussions about civilizations like ancient Egypt and Göbekli Tepe. I’m naturally curious, and if I come across something unfamiliar during a casual conversation, I can spend hours researching the topic, often ending up in fascinating rabbit holes!