COMENIUS UNIVERSITY SOLD A PATENT THAT COULD HELP SOLVE INFERTILITY
Bratislava, 31 January 2023: At the end of 2022, the cross-border cooperation of four parties – three universities and one start-up company – resulted in a technology transfer which is a great success for Comenius University Bratislava. The contract is worth 441,000 euros and will enable the roll-out of a new technology that significantly increases the success rate of artificial insemination.
By: CU External Relations Office
Infertility is an issue that affects more than 48 million couples worldwide every year. Particularly women over 40 years of age face decreasing chances of conception, even with the help of artificial insemination. Research conducted at the Pavol Jozef Šafárik University (UPJŠ) in Košice, Comenius University Bratislava and Masaryk University in Brno, which was later financially supported by the Czech group FABA Capital, led to a fundamental increase in the success rate of IVF (in vitro fertilisation) assisted reproduction and helped to commercialise the method.
IVF is still one of the most effective methods of treating infertility. Its success, however, depends on the interaction of many circumstances, including the selection of a suitable embryo to be transferred to the uterus. The new technology, protected by a patent application, identifies new miRNA molecules that can be used in predicting this success. „To simplify, the identified molecules predict the woman's readiness, and the quality and suitability of the embryo for the artificial insemination process,“ explains Associate Professor Miroslava Rabajdová from the Institute of Medical and Clinical Biochemistry of the Faculty of Medicine at UPJŠ in Košice.
„The innovative technology presented here consists of non-invasive collection of biological material without causing any damage to the embryo. Analysis of the miRNA molecules obtained in this manner in combination as biomarkers proved to be a suitable approach. In personalised medicine, the molecules can help predict the success of IVF by enabling the selection of a suitable embryo,“ explains Associate Professor Katarína Šoltys from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Comenius University, and she adds: „I believe that the combination of molecular methods and the use of artificial intelligence in biomedicine can improve both health care and the quality of life for many infertile couples, but also for the rest of us."
Portions of the experimental research were carried out in the laboratories of the Masaryk University in Brno. „I was invited to participate in the research by offering my experience in the field and in high-throughput analysis of miRNA molecules in clinical material. We also participated by carrying out our own sequence analyses and by experiment design aimed at taking the technology from the experimental level towards a possible applied use,” said Professor Ondřej Slabý from the Central European Research Institute (CEITEC) and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University.
By transferring the technology into practice the universities became an integral element in the solution of the society-wide issue of infertility. „Connecting the best experts across universities is the key to success and the future of scientific progress. I am pleased that we can do it on such a high level and with the cooperation of our Czech colleagues. This is all the more important because the joint research has a very practical and society-wide significance and has the potential to positively influence the lives of many people – this fact also foreshadows its commercial success.“ said the Rector of CU, Marek Števček.
The contract for the transfer of intellectual property to the start-up FETUS, IVF a.s. was signed on 20 December, 2022 among the four parties. „By joining this project, we strive to reduce the number of unwanted abortions worldwide and increase the chances for families who want to have a healthy child. Infertility treatment as a procedure is very demanding in terms of one's psychology and an initial failed transfer can have major adverse impact on possible further attempts. We are honoured to be a part of the birth of new lives with a happy story.“ adds Robert Flocius, CEO of FABA Group. One result of the cooperation was a new business incubator, fabaincube, established to help commercialise academic and university projects.
The technology first entered the spotlight at Transfera Technology Day 2020 – a competition intended to create a connection between Czech science and the business community, fostering suitable conditions for mutual cooperation. Subsequently, the technology also scored in Slovakia, where the authors received the 2021 Award for Technology Transfer in the Innovations category. „This commercialisation can be considered a great success, being the first official intellectual property transfer not just for CU, but any Slovak university. We spent the whole last year preparing the transfer and are very pleased with this success. We hope that the new owner will bring this invention to market,“ says Lenka Levarská from the Technology Transfer Centre of Comenius University. The Technology Transfer Centre of Masaryk University helped establish the first contact with the investor.