Béa Fertility co-founder Tess Cosad on fairness in fertility and facing the pandemic
“The fertility sector just doesn’t seem fair to me.”
In a year defined by lockdowns and change, Tess Cosad has been working on the launch of an at-home fertility company set to revolutionise the accessibility of the sector.
Béa Fertility, co-founded by Tess, David O’Rourke and George Thomas, is planning the launch of its inaugural product, which will allow families of all types to perform their own at-home fertility treatments.
Tess spoke to Bdaily about the treatment, the fertility sector and creating a “Covid baby” company.
Hi Tess! So what exactly is Béa?
“Béa is a fertility service - we as a team are working on creating a fertility treatment that people can carry out at home. So effectively what we’re working on is something called ICI (intracervical insemination).
“If you were going for a fertility treatment anytime until about the mid-1970s, the only thing you really would have been offered in a clinic is ICI, but because of changes in technology and the creation of IVF, there was a fallout around semen processing technology that allowed new clinical treatments to evolve called IUI (intrauterine insemination).
“Effectively, when IUI came onto the scene, ICI sort of was wiped off the map, but predominantly for commercial reasons actually - because all of the scientific evidence around efficacy shows that ICI is pretty much as effective as IUI.
“So really, what we’re doing is bringing ICI back, and we’re bringing it back in a way that allows people to carry out that treatment in their own homes. We’re pricing it at a point that you could effectively get five treatment cycles of that for the cost of one treatment cycle in a clinic.
“What we’re trying to do is make the fertility sector a little bit fairer, to open it up a little bit - to build something that is evidence based, that people can do at home and can afford to do at home, in a time of their lives that can be really painful.”
Where did the inspiration for the company come from?
“It’s a good story! My co-founder David is a chromosomal embryologist, so he was working in a clinic for ten years, and he just saw people coming through the door and he thought that there had to be something else they could do.
“He started to try and look around for something they could do -and really there was nothing - so he started thinking that maybe he could build something. He got to the point of making prototypes and he was asking himself ‘What do I do now?’.
“He had come to the realisation that he needed someone to come on and help him commercialise this, and that’s the point at which we met.
“I’m really obsessed with anything that doesn’t seem fair to me, and the fertility sector just doesn’t seem fair to me, so the more we looked into it, the more we decided that we really had something. Then about a year and a half later, we met our other co-founder, George.”
Why are you launching the company now?
“We’re a Covid company. I incorporated on March 30 2020, so we built this company entirely through the pandemic.
“I think David and I met about four times before we began building the company, and then we were remote for a year. We didn’t see each other for probably five or six months - so it’s a real Covid baby.
“We’re launching this now because it’s just the right time, and the product will be ready to launch in April in the UK.”
What was it like setting up a business in the pandemic?
“I think it was made a little bit easier by the fact that we just really didn’t have a choice. We start the company or we don’t, but if we wanted to start it, it had to be remote. There was no other option around that decision - it didn’t feel like we had any other choice ahead of us.
“I think we were lucky it was just the two of us to start off with. Had we been in a place where we’d have been hiring people into the team that would’ve been tough.
“During Covid, we were lucky that we were working on things that didn’t necessarily require being in the same place all the time because we were building a medical device but we didn’t need to be doing any of our own sort of testing that way.
“There have been some delays that I think definitely wouldn’t have existed if we had been able to be in the same place at the same time, but I feel quite lucky as it has enabled us to build a really strong culture of remote working.”
How do you think things will change now that restrictions have lifted?
“I think from a business perspective we are pretty resilient to being in lockdown. Fertility clinics shut in the height of the pandemic because it’s not considered an essential medical service, so actually what we’re working on is ripe for Covid.
“I almost wish we’d been able to launch earlier because people were desperate for something they could do at home.”
How does this differ from the rest of the fertility market?
“What we’re doing is we’re creating a bridge before IUI and IVF, creating a new step that allows you to try something that’s natural, non-invasive, evidence-based and effective.
“What I’m most proud of with what we’re building is that suddenly we can widen access to fertility treatment to everybody, to every single family, no matter what they look like.
“From gay couples to single women who have a support system the size of a village who are using known donors, to women who’ve experienced sexual trauma for whom sex is maybe not that great, and less abled people for whom vaginal intercourse for whom something like this just makes life a lot easier.”
What’s the long term plan for Béa?
“Once we’re launched in the UK market, I think we’ll start to turn our focus a little bit towards what’s next - and that could be any number of things. From our perspective, it will be a version two of the kit, meaning we can build further applications, and simplify things.
“I think for me, it’ll be building out the digital health experience. At the moment, we’re very focused on hardware, and there’s an app that does accompany the hardware treatment, but it doesn’t do a huge amount beyond that.
“Once we launch the hardware, we’ll flip our focus to the digital health side of things, and what that will do is create something that is an umbrella over a portfolio of products.
“So for instance, if you were planning to get pregnant but were not ready to use the device yet, we’d provide an ovulation predictor kit, if you were pregnant we’d provide a first trimester kit where you can take the right supplements, and so on.
“So really there’s a whole ecosystem that we’d like to build out around supporting families and safe sex. I would sum up our expansion piece as three things - evidence based, accessible, and affordable.”
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