“But daddy how are babies made?”
Last Friday, during Shabbat, our daughter, Mia, popped the question: “How are babies made?” Nina, my wife, is 24 weeks pregnant, and Mia, who is only 5, really wanted to know how babies were made.
You would think that question is hard to answer to such young a child. Uncomfortable. My first attempt was to try to simplify things. I went for the famous seed story.
“You know how at school you have been growing plants? You plant a seed, and then a few days later you see a sprout coming from under the dirt? Well, I planted a seed and mom has a baby in her belly,” I said.
“But how. daddy, how did you plant the seed?”
“Well, that,” I said, “You will find out when you are older.”
“You mean when I am 10?”
“Yes, Mia, when you are 10.”
So, by now you are probably thinking that by the time she is ten we will have the “sex talk.” But no, we won’t. When she is ten, we will have the “lab talk,” because Mia, like 5 million other children in the world so far, was made from Nina´s eggs and my sperm at an in vitro fertilization lab. My seed was “planted” in a petri dish.
Mia’s question was not only timely because of Nina´s pregnancy, but because today we are launching Prelude, the company that will help thousands of people have healthy babies when they are ready (a feature in Forbes about Prelude, authored by Miguel Helft, is here). And as a result of Prelude´s strategy, we will transform the infertility industry into the fertility industry, and in coming years, many more parents will have the “lab talk” with their kids.
Why would Prelude encourage the “lab talk” and not the “sex talk”? Because sex fails too frequently for it to be the only means of procreation. In the 60s, with the invention of the pill, the sexual revolution was launched—a revolution that decoupled sex from procreation. In the 2010s, thanks to the invention of vitrification (mostly developed at Prelude labs) and genetic sequencing of embryos, we are launching the second sexual revolution and decoupling procreation from sex.
When women under 30 are asked how many children they would like, the most common answer is three. But by the time they are 45, which is the natural end of fertility, 19% had no children, 22% had one, 30% had two, and only 29% had three or more children. Moreover, of those who had children, around 3% of babies were born with a congenital illness, and to get there, 20% of known pregnancies ended up in miscarriage. And to add to the risk of starting a family, every year there are tens of thousands of clinical abortions on pregnant women whose amnios or NIPT results lead them to decide to abort. So if having babies by having sex produces these results, should we continue to trust sex as the only means of procreation? We don’t think so. At Prelude, we think sex is great, sex is fun, but it is just too unreliable as the sole way to have babies during our 30s and 40s.
Prelude is a complementary strategy to starting a family having sex; an alternative that only occasionally would be necessary if millennials had their children at the same age as baby boomers had theirs. By stretching youth into our 40s, we’ve squeezed maternity out of the equation. A large segment of women is ending up with no children, or just one or two, when they wanted more. Or, because of advanced maternal and paternal age, they are having babies with significant health problems.
So, how do we fix this?
It’s why we developed The Prelude Method! The Prelude Method consists of freezing sperm and eggs when you are fertile, making embryos when you are ready, genetically sequencing parent’s and embryos to reduce the frequency of congenital illness, and transferring one at a time to reduce multiple pregnancies.
So. while all Prelude babies develop in their mother´s wombs, Prelude babies, like Mia, are not made having sex. And as opposed to people who solely rely on sex to make babies, people who rely on both sex and Prelude have a much greater chance of achieving their parental goals of having healthy babies when they are ready. Prelude uses the technology available to infertile people, on fertile people. At Prelude we believe that something as important as having a baby, and equally important, a healthy baby, should not be left to chance.
Today is a big day for us. Today, as Prelude, we announced that:
- We raised $200 million mainly from a phenomenal group of investment professionals known as Lee Equity including Barry Baker, Yoo Jin Kim, and Collins Ward.
- We have acquired the largest egg bank in North America, My Egg Bank, started by the scientist who perfected the vitrification technique in the U.S., Dr. Peter Nagy; and Dr. Daniel Shapiro, one of the nation’s leading reproductive endocrinologists who developed the most reliable technique to avoid hyperstimulation and obtain many eggs from fertile patients.
- We have acquired Atlanta-based RBA, one of the nation’s best fertility clinics, whose CEO, Dr. Andrew Toledo, and COO, Ron Davidson, are also a stellar part of our team.
- We have recruited a remarkable top manager, Tia Newcomer, as Chief Revenue Officer, former Vice President, Marketing & Commercial Operations at CBR, who convinced hundreds of thousands of new parents to preserve their baby’s stem cells.
- Allison Johnson, who worked for Steve Jobs and launched the iPhone and every other i-product from Apple during Steve’s time, is helping us communicate Prelude to the world.
- Joanna Rees, a well-known venture capitalist from San Francisco, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, America´s doctor, have joined our board as independent board members and are investors in Prelude.
From the outset, Prelude will have a sizable acquisition war chest [or bankroll] to partner with and acquire more fertility clinics around the country and to build a phenomenal embryo testing lab and cryogenic facilities.
In the years to come, many more parents like Nina and I will have the “lab talk” with Mia, our son David, and our baby on the way. And maybe you will too, because those who do will be much more likely to have healthy babies when they are ready than those who rely on sex alone for reproduction. With Prelude, our biology will finally come to terms with our psychology.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars