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From one couple’s personal traumatic experience of failed IVF has come a tech-led business which supports others to go through the process in an affordable, accessible and personalised way. Health Tech World learns more

 

“We’ve been where you are. So we created what we wish we’d had, Gaia.”

The words of Gaia founder Nader AlSalim will resonate with all couples who have experienced the emotional, physical and financially-draining rollercoaster of IVF in their quest to have a child. 

In 2015, he and his wife decided to start their family but were forced to turn to IVF. Over the next four years, they had four failed IVF cycles at three different clinics in two countries, costing £50,000. 

This experience left Nader more frustrated than happy and what initially was an interest, became an obsession, and then his new career – to make IVF more accessible and personalised. 

Nader explains, “It’s one of those very few things in life where the pain is multi-faceted – it’s physical, it’s emotional and it’s financial. Gaia started with the premise that money is a huge pain point for people thinking about or going through IVF treatment.” 

Using each woman’s personal circumstances, combined with its in-house technology – which is built on the collective data of over one million women who have previously undergone IVF both on the NHS and privately over the past 35 years – the business can predict how likely IVF will be to be successful for each individual. 

Conscious of the huge financial toll, Gaia offers an insurance whereby the business will cover the cost of IVF upfront for each couple, with repayment plans agreed depending on Gaia’s predicted number of successful cycles for each couple. If unsuccessful, the couple will not need to continue with their repayments, paying only a small portion of the total cost of treatment. 

The unique approach, based on the very personal experience of its founder, is ensuring Gaia is standing out from the crowd. In just a few months of business, with its team growing rapidly, the startup is already working with two clinics in the UK and has seen strong interest from individuals throughout the country. 

While it is currently only able to support couples in the UK, its free personalised IVF Treatment Pathway Questionnaire is proving popular internationally. 

Lucy Slack, the marketing lead at Gaia, who has relocated from New York to work for the London-based startup, says the aim is to improve on the heartbreaking statistic than half of all couples undergoing IVF drop out after a single round of IVF and before they have a baby. 

“But it’s much more than IVF. It’s about giving people agency over their reproductive health early on in their lives,” she says.  

“The cost of IVF can be incredibly expensive at up to £10,000 for one round. That cost is a huge burden on couples. We hear so many accounts of people who max out their credit cards, remortgage or downsize their homes, and set up GoFundMe in order to pay for their treatment. That is even before they hopefully have a child.

“The Gaia model takes that upfront burden away. And if they don’t manage to have a baby, then they don’t have to pay the total cost of their IVF treatment. By creating an insurance solution with monthly payments, we hope to make IVF accessible for couples who couldn’t otherwise afford it.”

For clinics too, the benefits of working with Gaia are persuasive. Already working with two clinics, Gaia hopes to grow its clinic partnerships in the upcoming months.

“Gaia will get more people to start their treatment by removing the upfront financial burden whilst also increasing retention at clinics. With visibility on the number of cycles that they might need in order to be successful, couples will be much less inclined to switch clinics in between cycles. Accordingly, clinic success rates will increase as more patients stay until a live birth,” says Lucy.  

And the inspiration for the company – founder Nader’s story – is what motivates staff, while reassuring patients of Gaia’s shared desire for their successful IVF experience.

“There’s a complete ripple effect on the team, knowing our founder has been through IVF himself,” says Lucy.

“For customers too, it’s really important they know this isn’t just a business to Nader – he has been through the same experience, so understands exactly what they’re going through. We all want the same outcome – a successful live birth – and we’ll support individuals as best we can to make that happen.”

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