My wife and I tried for a baby for more than two years. Our son, Oliver, was born in 2016 after twelve failed cycles of IVF, which had taken us 21 months to complete. I lived through every moment of that journey with my wife and felt her deep sorrow after each unsuccessful cycle. After enduring this entire experience with her, I became very familiar with some of the challenges that IVF patients must face and overcome, such as sufficient egg quality, safe and effective hormonal stimulation or appropriate embryo selection.
I secured seed funding and left corporate life at the end of 2020 to develop the Leeaf platform with the vision to transform the conception journey by assisting physicians in delivering truly personalised treatment recommendations to fertility patients.
Due to my background in the delivery of AI-based cognitive solutions to the healthcare sector, I was able to try and apply artificial intelligence (AI) to evaluate embryo quality in order to improve the final embryo selection. This turned out to be a very successful experiment! My team and I presented our attempt at ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) in Lisbon in 2015 and Helsinki 2016, where we drew attention from several significant industry players.
Seeing the promising results of AI in embryo evaluation, I couldn't help but look further for other challenges in the field of fertility health. I realised that particularly the IVF field could benefit from data analysis and the application of AI much more than initially believed by combining greater data availability with mobile access to information. Increased competition within the growing fertility industry gradually resulted in a disruption of the entire IVF value chain. I shared my idea of the “Role of AI in IVF” with some of the IVF industry leaders in 2017 and was encouraged by their positive support and the challenges our vision presented.
Thanks to the initial funding, we prioritised market needs in 2018, which led to a UK market test during the autumn of 2019. This provided the business case viability of AI-generated, individualised stimulation protocols. The Fertility & AI Forum at the end of 2019 confirmed our direction – four leading fertility clinics presented pilot projects affirming clinical benefits of AI solutions for IVF treatments.