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World Embryologist Day – Recognizing Embryologists as Innovators Driving Technological Advancements in Reproductive Healthcare

World Embryologist Day, is a special day in the world of healthcare as we come together to celebrate World Embryologist Day. On this occasion, we take a moment to recognize and honor the remarkable achievements of embryologists worldwide. These dedicated professionals play a pivotal role in both clinical embryology and groundbreaking research that continually advances the industry. Today, we delve into the fascinating stories of a few pioneering embryologists who have transitioned from their “hands-on” roles to becoming visionary leaders in technology startups. Let’s explore how they are leveraging cutting-edge technologies to make a profound impact on millions of lives.

The Crucial Role of Embryologists in Family Building:
Embryologists are unsung heroes in the realm of assisted reproductive technology (ART). They skillfully work behind the scenes, performing crucial tasks like in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryo culture and grading, and cryopreservation, to name a few. The success of countless couples’ dreams of starting a family owes a great deal to the dedication and expertise of these professionals, and is celebrated on World Embryologist Day, the birthdate of the world’s first IVF baby, Louise Joy Brown.
As technology and research continually evolve, so do the opportunities for embryologists to expand their horizons beyond the confines of a laboratory. Many of them have ventured into the world of startups, where they now play pivotal roles in driving innovation and creating groundbreaking solutions.

Empowering through Technology Startups:
We had the privilege to interview some incredible embryologists who have embraced their passion for cutting-edge technology and translated it into fruitful roles as executives and CEOs in tech startups. Their journey from being “hands-on” working embryologists to driving innovation has been truly inspiring.

AI Driven Embryo Selection Advancements:

Daniella Gilboa, CEO at AIVF,  a renowned embryologist, shared her experience of transitioning to the tech world. As the CEO of a fertility-focused startup, AIVF, she spearheads the development of AI-powered embryo selection algorithms. This technology revolutionizes the embryo screening process, significantly increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy while reducing emotional and financial burdens for couples undergoing IVF.

She says “I sometimes have flashbacks to my first week in an IVF lab. Which was overwhelming. About 20 years ago. It took me a couple of days to fall in love with this amazing profession. There’s a moment in time where it’s the embryologist, the patient and the physician, in the same room, just moments before embryo transfer. It’s this moment that encapsulates everything. It’s this moment when you know you can change people’s lives. I am honored to be an embryologist and more so, to lead the development of the next generation of IVF.” 

Gamete and Embryo Cryostorage Breakthroughs: 

Cynthia Hudson, VP Clinical Strategy at TMRW Life Sciences formerly a hands-on embryologist, is now the VP of Clinical Strategy at TMRW, specializing in gamete and embryo cryostorage automation. She leads a team of researchers working on innovative automated cryostorage hardware and software. This breakthrough robotics technology has far-reaching implications for individuals facing fertility challenges and those considering delaying parenthood by freezing gametes for long term storage.

She says “There is so much demand for fertility care that it will take all of us, and more, to solve the access to care problem. My path went from working as an embryologist to designing technology for embryologists to use in the laboratory. If we can improve the efficiency, safety, and standard of care, we can help more people that need us.”

The Power of Precision: PGT Technologies

Among the remarkable stories of embryologists transitioning to leadership roles in technology startups, we find those who have embarked on a journey into the realm of Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT). PGT is a cutting-edge technology that enables embryologists to screen embryos for genetic abnormalities before they are replaced. At the heart of their mission lies the development of advanced PGT technologies that offer unparalleled precision in identifying genetic anomalies in embryos. 

Charlene Alouf, PhD, HCLD, Medical Science Liaison, Genomic Prediction says “It has been an amazing transition – especially from someone with decades of experience that started during a very remedial time in IVF technology.  I really have gotten to know so many in the field and that is 50% of the satisfaction!”

Sheela Ali, PhD, HCLD, VP of Science and Innovation, Progenesis, “I have spent the last 15 years dedicating my career to human IVF, many times sacrificing personal time to my work. I have such a strong passion for the field and an even stronger passion for the families we are helping build. My time as an embryologist and laboratory director were monumental in identifying gaps in automation and technology for our IVF field. I made the decision to use my experience, education and skills to help bridge the gap between new and emerging technologies and  their proper availability and application in the IVF and Andrology laboratories by joining Progenesis. I find that the growth in my career has been exceptional as I broadened my reach by helping laboratories improve their practices, ultimately improving patient care and cycle outcomes. As the VP of Science and Innovation, with a single webinar, hands on workshop or conference, I address larger laboratory and clinical groups to maximize the positive impact, which ultimately translates to improved efficiencies. I can develop and grow the technology for the betterment of the patient and laboratory staff alike by assessing the current needs of the laboratory and clinicians.  I am an advocate for progressive and improved laboratory practices and strive to propose solutions and workflows that will reduce hardships of my fellow embryologists and andrologists. I have been fortunate that the relationships I have built over the years with my peers are strong and supportive.  It has been an exhilarating journey thus far and I look forward to continuously bringing the latest and greatest technologies to IVF laboratories.”

Global Professional Education Clinical Support In addition to the groundbreaking work of embryologists in technology startups, another essential aspect of the field is the Global Professional Education Clinical Support. Highly skilled embryologists, like Sourima Biswas Shivhare, of Cooper Surgical Fertility Solutions strive to strengthen the global community of embryologists and contribute to the continuous improvement of reproductive healthcare on a global scale. 

She says “It has been liberating; in my current role, I am truly able to embrace my love and curiosity for the field and help the field move forwards. Let’s say there are tools in a true ‘clinical scientists’ toolbox, which aren’t ‘allowed’ to be utilized in the regular lab. This makes them obliged, due to their love for the field, to move out in the direction of roles that are conducive and nurturing of the true scientist. Bottom line, embryologists are being used/trained as technicians, not given the scope to nurture their brains. Having even the most basic understanding of the potential and the necessity for automation in the lab, in fact we should be training more brains than hands.”

On the Occasion of Word Embryologist Day 2023
On this World Embryologist Day, we celebrate the achievements of embryologists worldwide and the profound impact they have on countless lives. These passionate individuals not only excel in clinical embryology but are also instrumental in driving technological advancements that shape the future of reproductive healthcare.

As we applaud their dedication, let us also acknowledge the remarkable journey of those who have embraced leadership roles in technology startups. Their vision, paired with their expertise, has given rise to cutting-edge solutions that hold the promise of helping millions achieve their dreams of building a family.

Together, as a global community, we honor and appreciate the invaluable contributions of these exceptional individuals, and we look forward to a future where technology and human ingenuity continue to work hand in hand for the betterment of reproductive health worldwide. Happy World Embryologist Day!