Jan 26, 2024 - Health

Tech firms court growing demand for male fertility services

Illustration of a digitized green image of a stork carrying a baby in a sheet

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Growing awareness about male infertility and shifting cultural attitudes are fueling demand among tech startups offering men at-home fertility services.

Why it matters: Fertility care has historically been marketed toward women, but male fertility is a growing business amid mainstream alarm over falling sperm counts and interest in what screenings may indicate about a man's overall health.

  • "2023 was the year thought leaders and influencers started talking about this," said Khaled Kteily, CEO of Legacy, which offers at-home semen analysis and sperm freezing.
  • He said attention paid to the issue by podcasters popular with young men — like Joe Rogan, Andrew Huberman and Peter Attia — is driving a "big uptick" in demand.

The big picture: The U.S. fertility industry was already massive and fast-growing, worth over $30 billion in 2022, according to Grand View Research.

  • Services for men still make up a relatively small portion of the market at $4 billion, per Grand View.
  • But they've been gaining plenty of venture capital backing. Most recently, fertility startup Posterity Health banked a $7.5 million funding round last week.
  • Other companies in the space include YO, Mojo, Path, Fellow and Dadi, which was acquired by telehealth company Ro for $100 million in 2022.
  • "There does seem to be a lot more discourse and discussion around male fertility lately, which I think is really promising and I think part of that has to do with broadly debunking the myth that infertility is a woman's health issue," said Lux Capital partner Deena Shakir.

Zoom in: The ability to conduct these screenings at home, without having to go into a clinic or doctor's office, is a big selling point for many of these companies, even as the topic becomes less taboo.

  • Part of the challenge for these companies is further erasing the stigma.
  • Toward that effort, Legacy is hosting a "sexy sperm party" for influencers, journalists, investors and others in a midtown Manhattan bar next month for a talk about declining sperm counts.
  • Calling it an "SOS" or "Save Our Sperm" party, the marketing is intentionally cheeky to get attention, Kteily said. But he wants to be clear the message is serious: getting men to see semen as a "check engine light" for their health.
  • Many of Legacy's clients are men with a partner who are testing due to specific concerns, but about 60% are men who are proactively testing, Kteily said.
  • It's a trend that Robert Brannigan, vice president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, has also noticed.
  • "I think that we're seeing an increased appetite for some people wanting to just establish their baseline level fertility and learn before they actively try," Brannigan said.

What we're watching: Innovations around male reproductive health could bring further investment to the field.

  • Next Life Sciences in California recently announced a $2.5 million funding round to develop a male contraceptive hydrogel called Plan A, which could become a nonsurgical alternative to vasectomies.
  • Virginia-based biotech Contraline announced positive results in early-stage testing earlier this month for a similar product.
  • Researchers are also studying if AI could help with male infertility treatment by helping spot viable sperm, BBC reported.
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