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Reference Case: Sperm selection chip for assisted reproduction

NGM funded project managed bei Microfluidics Innovation Hub for MEPROlife s.l. with focus on Assisted Reproduction Innovation - Sperm selection chip.

Interview: Dr. Nerea Subiran

Founder and CEO, MEPROlife s.l.

During our recent visit to the MePro office and laboratory in San Sebastian, Spain, we sat down with Dr. Nerea Subiran for a short chat as she introduced us to her company MePro, talked about the project and shared insights into her experience with the Open Call. Read on to find out how the program has impacted her project and learn more about what it takes to apply to the Open Call.

What was the inspiration behind establishing the company MePro?

We started MePro in 2018 and our mission is to find solutions for improving the success of assisted reproduction treatments. We do this by developing different kits and medical devices for patients with infertility problems. Our aim is to improve sperm selection procedures by developing personalized solutions.

We are passionate about helping couples have a better chance of having a baby and reducing the number of those that fail to achieve pregnancy while undergoing treatments.

How did you find out about the MIH and the Open Call?

It was through working with one of the NGM partners, Tecnalia, that we found out about the Open Call. They made us aware of how the consortium could be able to provide us with a great deal of help during our product development phase. In addition to this, we became even more eager to apply when we learned of the possibility to produce and manufacture the chip through roll-to-roll.

What was your motivation for applying to the Open Call?

After finding out more about the Open Call, we realized that the services offered by the consortium fit perfectly with our needs. When we submitted our application, we were not completely familiar with all the companies involved in the project, but we knew that the specific services they offered were important for us.

How did you find the application process?

In the beginning, I was quite surprised to find a lot of people involved in the project. I soon realized, however, as we started working on the different aspects of the project that this was extremely useful and necessary. Everyone taking part in the project brought with them their own unique points of view and expertise. Every interaction and discussion allowed us to integrate all the knowledge and capabilities each one possessed. I have seen how much time and effort the partners have dedicated and invested in this application, and for that I am very grateful.

What is the project duration, total budget, and the funding you received?

The expected project duration is 10 months with a total budget of 133,324 Euro, where funding received in services amounts to 113,521 Euro (85% of the total budget).

Can you very briefly describe the problem you introduced to the Open Call and how the NGM partners address it ?

We have identified and presented three main issues: the first involves manufacturing. As we currently produce our chips though injection moulding, we were interested in evaluating whether or not we would be able to produce the same chips though roll-to-roll and whether or not the results would provide us with lower production costs.

The second issue we identified concerns optimizing the aptamer functionalization. We know that only a few chips are functionalized by aptamers, and the majority are functionalized with antibodies. We wanted to switch our solution to using aptamers instead of antibodies as this would give us the opportunity to improve the manufacturing conditions of the chips.

The third and final challenge aims to find a solution to extend the life of the product and optimize market distribution. For instance, when using antibodies, we would need to keep the products in cold storage during distribution but when using aptamers, we can transport and distribute the products at room temperature – reducing the distribution costs.

The NGM partners involved in the project (BRFAA, Tecnalia, Inmold and Micronit), together with the MIH have offered us the opportunity to work on these specific technological problems in order to overcome and find solutions for them.

What would you say the Open Call specifically provides you with which you would not have achieved on your own?

MePro is a start-up with very limited resources. As a small company, the Open Call gave us the opportunity to access a wide range of expertise from companies and research institutions that we would not have been able to obtain on our own.

How do you feel about the current state of your project with the MIH?

We are currently only at the beginning of the project and I am very happy and optimistic knowing that the people involved in the project are not only interested but are truly dedicated to coming up with the solution.

At this point, the MIH for me effectively combines the activities of research and development with manufacturing. It brings together big companies and small research centers to work not on a research project but a development project.

What are your plans after the program?

After undertaking all the activities in the program, I hope to achieve the objectives of the project and come closer to executing the final results. This involves resolving the issues on functionalization and sterilization, and determining whether or not we can manufacture through roll-to-roll.

Once we have the product, we plan to apply for the CE Mark and try to obtain FDA approval. Our final goal is to commercialize in Europe, US and Japan.

What would you advice other projects interested in applying to the Open Call?

I think the Open Call is an excellent opportunity for start-ups and companies like us to gain access to important technologies, work with experts in the field and get in contact with potential manufacturers.

One important advice I have for those interested in applying for the Open Call is to be able to clearly identify the issues and challenges you are facing and be clear that what you are aiming for in the end is a realistic solution that can be commercialized and brought to market.

DOWNLOAD the 2-page data sheet to find out more about the project:

Reference Case_MePro
Download PDF • 664KB

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