Pasadena Biotech Startup Unveils New Sperm Test System

Published : Wednesday, October 19, 2016 | 5:50 AM

Image From Epison Website

A locally-based bio tech startup has developed a sperm test it says can help men understand their fertility better than most traditional tests.

Episona, which operates out of a historic Craftsman bungalow here in Pasadena, unveiled Monday its next-generation sperm test, marketed as Seed, in front of thousands of fertility doctors at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Salt Lake City.

Health, medicine, and scientific discovery news publication STAT reports that the $895 test works by analyzing 480,000 regions of the epigenome – a teeming collection of chemical compounds that latch on to an individual’s DNA and affect which genes are turned on and off.

Episona founder Alan Horsager, who worked with geneticists, sperm experts, and computer scientists to develop the test, said he hoped to fill “a very big vacuum” for men struggling with infertility.

“There’s a big hunger for information on the male side,” he said.

The Seed test, claims Episona, will help a man understand why he’s infertile even if his sperm looks normal under a microscope. With no clear treatment yet for male infertility, the test results may only be useful in stressing that the infertility is real. That knowledge could spur couples to consider sperm donors or adoption, instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars in cycle after cycle of in vitro fertilization.

“One of the most heartbreaking things we see is people go through one cycle of IVF, have poor quality embryos, and then go through a second cycle hoping it will be better,” STAT quotes Doug Carrell, a University of Utah endocrinologist who co-founded Episona. “My hope for the test is that we give them more knowledge beforehand.”

Sold through physicians’ offices, the Seed test comes in a sleek black box decorated with bright blue chromosomes. It includes a funnel and collection vial and return mailing label for the sample to be sent to a lab after it is collected at home. Men can then view the results online at home shortly after they have been sent to the physician for review.

For more information about the Seed test and the Pasadena company that developed it, visit www.episona.com.

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