For many men and women, becoming a parent isn’t an easy journey. And while the focus on reproductive health is mostly on women, up to half (40–50%) of all infertility cases actually relate to men
When Ashwin Ramachandran’s uncle spent more than $80,000 to have his first child, he saw there was a huge gap in the reproductive healthcare system that failed to address the fertility issues of men.
Ramachandran, along with his co-founder Abdul Syed, have co-founded men’s fertility platform Sapyen in a bid to increase access to healthcare for men in the hopes of improving people’s lives.
“We got started because testing for male infertility is inaccessible and often highly emasculating, so a majority of men are unable to seek appropriate care in many instances,” says Ramachandran.
“Every man needs to think about fertility health not just because a father’s sperm quality can determine the health of an unborn child but also because fertility health is a strong proxy for general health.
“World over, populations are growing older, and countries like Australia and Japan already have low reproduction rates coupled with skyrocketing healthcare and IVF costs that are starting to make pre-conception health a necessary step in a couple’s fertility journey.
“Because accessible reproductive care positively impacts people’s lives, we decided to build an at-home male fertility and reproductive health startup to make it easy for men to get tested and access reproductive care from anywhere at any time.”
In validating their business idea, Ramachandran says after speaking to several thousand men and women over the past couple of years, he has realised that along with the stigma that male infertility carries, there is a significant anticipation-driven anxiety associated with building a family.
“At Sapyen, we’re actively working to create greater access to healthcare, knowledge, and conversations for men, so we can make accessible healthcare a reality, destigmatise the male fertility and health conversation, and build a considerate and empathetic society,” he says.
Given the scientific nature of the solution, Ramachandran says one critical problem had to be overcome to get the business started.
“The biggest challenge for us was that semen samples are not viable one-hour post collection, which meant that we couldn’t possibly scale the business,” he says. “Which is why a GP will ask you to collect a sample in person, at a lab, or drive a sample to your closest pathology clinic, which sometimes is 50 kilometers away. So, we had to find a way to solve that problem.
“We devised a new use case for an existing clinical medium and performed three clinical studies with a major Australian laboratory chain to stabilise semen samples and extend their shelf life to 48 hours. This means we can now scale and stabilise samples for up to two days post collection and provide customers clinically-validated test results without sacrificing the quality of healthcare they receive.”
The Sapyen team have been working with Antler to build the business and recently secured early-stage investment from the global venture capitalist.
“We had a mutual interest in healthcare given our background in commercialisation and Pharmaceuticals, and we were one among the first teams to begin working on our startup with Antler’s recent cohort,” says Ramachandran.
“Antler’s investment in Sapyen meant that we could prototype our product, support legal and administrative expenditure, begin implementing our Beta launch, finalise commercial partnerships, and conduct further clinical trials with our medical network.
“Within one week of starting the business, we had 5,000 people sign up to the waitlist which shows just how many men are looking for accessible healthcare solutions.”
Looking forward, Ramachandran hopes Sapyen will have a real-world impact on men’s healthcare.
“Sapyen exists to facilitate healthcare for the human race,” he says. “We want to build a company that removes all preventable obstacles that disallow equitable access to quality healthcare for all people from anywhere at any time.”
- Startup Daily is the official media partner of Antler in Australia.