Tomas Stojanov has been an integral part of an extremely successful network of invitro-fertilisation (IVF) clinics in his role as the CEO of fertility group Genea, but his personal dream is to do more. He wanted to change the world of IVF to benefit his company, his industry and most importantly his patients.
“Historically, Genea has always been an innovator and technology provider for the industry,” Tomas says: “But we wanted faster results, a more nimble approach and stronger returns. So we launched an IVF technology company, Genea Biomedx, and committed to developing and commercialising our ideas.”
In 2010, Tomas set about realising one of his more radical ideas: to revolutionise the laboratory process of freezing human embryos, called vitrification.
The outcome is the product known as Gavi (Genea Automated Vitrification Instrument). For the first time in the world an instrument completely automates the most critical steps in freezing human embryos, reducing the risk of harming the embryo, and likely increasing the fertility outcome for families. Tomas explains: “The manual process for freezing human embryos is fiddly and technically demanding. People are currently taking an embryo on a tiny plastic hockey stick and plunging it into the liquid nitrogen. It’s not the best way to treat embryos but the industry did not have an alternative method. We thought that the only way to get consistency, and therefore hopefully improved outcomes, was by automating the process.”
After four years of intensive and painstaking development, Gavi has been recognised by the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS), for its innovation and impact on the industry. This year, Gavi was awarded the Society’s award for New Product of the Year 2014.
Tomas says his initial vision would never have become reality were it not for the tremendous talent and dedication of many staff and partners who made Gavi a reality. “Gavi really is a special product. It has to care for very small, extremely precious cells,” Tomas says. “They are only a couple of hundred microns in diameter, so you can’t even see them with the naked eye. The instrument must hold them in place and allow the changing of liquids and the freezing and thawing of the human embryos.”
Planet Innovation is proud to have played our part as Genea’s development and commercialization partner.
Tomas says: “I remember right back in the beginning that Eduardo Vom from Planet Innovation insisted that we prove our core technology before we started developing the overall instrument. This was wise advice because ensuring the embryo was held safely in position proved incredibly difficult. Even more difficult than we first thought. But once we solved that, we knew we had something the rest of the industry didn’t.”
Genea is now developing several other industry-changing products including an incubator that provides time-lapse imagery of individual embryos as they grow.
“Having been through this journey of developing Gavi, I can now look at other products on the market and see which have and which have not been designed with innovation in mind. For us, innovation is fundamental. Biomedx is changing how things are done – it’s what makes us different. We don’t want to design what already exists.”
When asked what advice he would give other innovators looking to bring a new product to market Tomas answers: “Choose the right people to help you to do it. Now after three or four years of being in development I can appreciate how important it is to have good engineers and a good development company to help you realize your dreams.”
About Tomas Stojanov:
Tomas Stojanov assumed the role of CEO for Genea in 2011. Prior to this he was Genea’s Director of Research. His passions include managing people at all levels and backgrounds including Gypsies in the Eastern Slovakian countryside where he learned his basic skills in human leadership, and his colleagues cite his ability to see beyond the horizon as one of his greatest strengths.
Gavi was launched In London 2013, to the acclaim of the global IVF community. It is the world’s first automated vitrification instrument of its kind. Gavi will change the way IVF is performed by standardising the way each embryo is handled and therefore produce more consistent, high quality results.
To find out more about Gavi technology, click here geneabiomedx.com.
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