IVF ‘breakthrough’ treatment

Pioneering use of the first oral medication of its kind in IVF treatment is showing remarkable trial results


ObsEva, which develops reproductive health treatments, has reported trial results of a therapy with the potential to increase in vitro fertilisation (IVF) success rates by more than
10 per cent.

The reported findings are said to represent the biggest innovation in the field in 20 years and are one of many examples of small niche companies producing some of healthcare’s biggest advances. Many of these focus on some of the areas with great unmet need that large companies often ignore.

In fertility treatment, timing can be everything and the same is true of new companies

In fertility treatment, timing can be everything and the same is true of new companies. ObsEva was founded in 2012 as demand for reproductive healthcare was rising rapidly. Vast numbers of Western women were delaying having children to pursue their careers and then in 2015 China suspended its one-child-per-
couple policy.

Worldwide, the annual number of treatment cycles for assisted reproduction technology is estimated to have risen within the last decade from 1.6 million to 2.4 million. In China it is reported to be more than 800,000 a year.

Unfortunately for couples seeking fertility aid, quantity in demand does not equate to quality of outcome. The World Health Organization has estimated that only one in four infertility treatments end with a “take-home” baby.

ObEva’s founder and chief executive Dr Ernest Loumaye wants to fill what is for all too many women a therapeutic vacuum. He is a dedicated gynaecologist whose prime interest is looking after patients. But he felt that reproductive health had been left far behind in the biotech revolution.

As a clinician he was limited in what he could do. Wanting to develop innovative treatments, he moved into the pharmaceutical industry. Twelve years ago, he founded and was chief executive of another successful company, PregLem, which was sold in 2010 before the launch in Europe of its lead medicine.

ObsEva’s pipeline also includes a novel hormone-based therapy to treat both endometriosis, a common, painful condition that can cause infertility and pain during sex, and uterine fibroids, causing non-cancerous growths in and around the womb, heavy menstrual bleeding that may result in anaemia and other possible symptoms, including a frequent need to urinate.