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Spermosens: helping couples succeed in babymaking 

Spermosens: helping couples succeed in babymaking 

2 July, 2024

As infertility reaches an alarming rate, in vitro fertilisation is seen as a beacon of hope. Despite its successes, IVF too often leads to disappointment, so innovation in the field is in high demand. Spermosens is making significant strides to address these challenges with its diagnostic technology, JUNO-Checked. BioStock spoke with recently appointed CEO Tore Duvold to learn more about the company’s new strategy for bringing JUNO-Checked to the market.

Infertility is a major health challenge globally. According to the World Health Organization, close to 20 per cent of the population struggles with infertility, contributing significantly to a demographics crisis across most of the industrialized world, and not only.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) has become the main treatment for infertility. However, despite significant advancements in the technology over the last few decades, numerous challenges still remain. Low success rates persist – less than one in five, globally – leading to high emotional stress. And the financial costs also add up – in the US, for example, a single IVF cycle costs around USD 20,000. Many couples endure multiple cycles, sometimes as many as eight, before achieving success, adding to the emotional and physical strain.

Spermosens tackling male-factor infertility

One of the key factors contributing to the low success rates is the poor understanding, and thus lacking diagnostics methods, of male-factor infertility. Only recently did it become clear that half of all infertility cases involve the male factor – low sperm quality – and 40 per cent of those cases remain unexplained.

Addressing this issue and hoping to make an impact is Spermosens – a biotech company based in Lund. Its main asset is JUNO-Checked – a diagnostics tool that provides detailed diagnostic information about sperm quality. JUNO-Checked hope to allow for more personalized and effective fertility treatments, reducing the number of IVF cycles needed and increasing the overall success rate, making the process less grueling and more affordable for patients.

To validate the product, Spermosens is preparing for a clinical study at Reproductive Medicines Center (RMC) in Malmö, led by Dr Ingela Soltic. The study, beginning in Q3 2024, will involve 250 couples with unexplained infertility undergoing IVF treatment. It aims to investigate male fertility through the molecular recognition between sperm cells and oocytes via the binding of two key proteins, IZUMO1 and JUNO. Positive outcomes could enhance IVF treatments, provide a valuable diagnostic tool for sperm banks, and better assist couples before IVF treatment.

Revised business strategy

To ensure efficient execution of the clinical study and intensify its business development endeavors globally, Spermosens has recently revised its business strategy. By reallocating its resources to these two focus areas, the company hopes to identify the right commercial partners through license deals in key markets for its product. The strategic shift includes initiatives to enhance organizational efficiency and reduced costs, positioning the company optimally for success in a large and growing market for infertility treatment.

Leading this strategy is Tore Duvold, who became CEO on May 1, 2024. With over 25 years of experience in the life sciences sector and a PhD in Bioorganic Chemistry, Duvold has held senior positions at LEO Pharma, Edvince, Coegin Pharma, Innovation Fund Denmark, and Aker BioPharma.

CEO insights

BioStock got in touch with Tore Duvold to learn more about the new strategy for Spermosens and his vision for the company.

Tore Duvold

Tore, what attracted you to join Spermosens as CEO?

– The main reason is to help couples succeed in having their own babies. Infertility is a global challenge creating a lot of suffering. What made Spermosens very interesting to me, was the focus on male infertility, which is poorly understood.

How do you plan to leverage your extensive experience in the life sciences sector to advance Spermosens’ mission?

– My first priority has been to try to understand all relevant aspects of the technology and to identify the strategic options. To advance successfully requires a very focused approach and in the case of Spermosens, it is vital to establish solid clinical evidence and reach out to strong partners who can commercialize the asset and make it available to clinics and patients.

How do you see JUNO-Checked technology transforming the current landscape of IVF treatments?

– I think we have the potential with Juno-Checked to make IFV treatment more personalized, leading to a more precise and effective treatment. The ultimate goal is to increase the success rate of the IVF treatment and simply make more babies! I also want to emphasize that we may also offer a very relevant technology for sperm banks, enabling them to provide better quality and advice couples about when the sperm quality has the highest potential to result in pregnancy.

Can you elaborate on the significance of assessing male fertility and its impact on personalized IVF treatments?

– Poor sperm quality is not well understood, although we know it is very important for successful pregnancies. This poor understanding has previsouly resulted in a ‘trial-and-error’ approach that is frustrating for the couples hoping to concieve a baby, and moreover costly for society. Our technology is unique in the sense that we may find the exact reasons and allow caregivers to adapt the treatment to become more successful.

What is the sales potential for JUNO-checked?

– There is no doubt that the market is huge and growing. There is also a high demand for better solutions and a strong willingness to pay. We have conservatively estimated that our technology could generate as much as  USD 600 million in annual revenue , based on 3 million annual IVF treatments for IVF clinics alone.

Why was it important to revise the company’s business strategy?

– It is necessary to establish solid clinical evidence, which will become our key selling points. We need to commercialize through strong players in the field, and we have therefore decided to step up our business and licensing efforts.

What measures are being implemented to ensure the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Spermosens’ operations?

– We will solely focus on the upcoming clinical trial and business development, which means that we can use our resources more efficiently. Currently we will pause effort in experimenting and optimizing the technology further, thus reducing costs.

Can you discuss the potential market impact of JUNO-Checked beyond traditional IVF clinics?

– As mentioned previously, we envision strong demand from sperm banks who can differentiate by offering premium sperm quality with the highest potential for pregnancy. We might also have an offering by providing more qualitative and better answers to couples who experience difficulties getting pregnant – this opens up for services before the couples even reach IVF treatment. There is the potential to give answer to when the sperm has the highest potential to bind to the egg. Veterinary use may also be an area of interest that we may consider later on.

What strategic partnerships are you aiming for, and how will they enhance Spermosens’ market reach?

– There are various models for partnerships, and we are open to both fully outlicensing, co-development and strong partnerships. The key goal is to achieve the best possible business case and a widespread use of our technology.

What are your priorities for Spermosens in the coming year?

– The main priorities are to achieve strong evidence for JUNO-Checked’s diagnostic value and to establish strong commercial partnerships.

What are your long-term goals for Spermosens, and where do you see the company in the next three to five years?

– I hope and believe we can have a very useful and successful product on the market in collaboration with strong players in the field. If we succeed, we will both help many couples have their own babies and a provide our owners a good financial outcome.

The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.

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