- During a press conference in Geneva this morning, Martin Velasco,
Pascal Mock MD and Prof. Patrick Aebischer, President of the EPFL
(Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), presented a solution
which opens promising new prospects in terms of assisted reproductive
- A major advantage of the leading-edge technique developed by the
Swiss biotech company Anecova SA is that it constitutes a return to a
solution which is closer to the natural process. Thus, fertilization
and embryonic development take place in vivo (within a capsule in the
future mother's uterus) rather than in vitro (in a test tube).
- Anecova has now announced proven results which were better than
anticipated. This is a major challenge, as sterility now affects one
in ten couples, or more than 80 million people throughout the world.
Geneva (ots) - Specialised in reproductive medicine, based in the
Medically Assisted Procreation (MAP) Centre at the Clinique des
Grangettes in Geneva and researcher into human embryo implantation,
Dr. Pascal Mock has always aimed to improve the treatment of
infertile couples. In 2000, he came up with the novel idea of
replacing the test tube used for in vitro fertilisation by a
permeable capsule, inserted in the mother's uterus, so that gametes
(spermatozoa, ovules) and/or embryos would develop under more natural
conditions, in vivo.
Having confirmed his hypotheses in mice, Pascal Mock patented his
invention in 2001. Although the idea was simple, however, putting it
into practice required the development of both the capsule and a
system to introduce it into the uterus, involving the implementation
of leading-edge technologies and complicated studies on the materials
Considered the leading European "Business Angel" by the Wall
Street Journal, and one of the leaders of European change by Business
Week ("The Stars of Europe"), Martin Velasco has been based in Geneva
for several years, where he has contributed to the success of
companies such as Sumerian Networks, Speedlingua, AC Immune and
NovImmune. He became fascinated by this new challenge, and in March
2004 became Dr Mock's partner, setting up Anecova SA, based in Geneva
(head office) and Epalinges (laboratories). From the start, Anecova
benefited from the advice of leading international scientists from
Belgium, France, Spain, Germany and the US.
In terms of the materials used and the way they were treated,
Anecova has benefited from the active support of the Ecole
Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, well-known for its remarkable
expertise in this area. Indeed, not only does the Anecova capsule
measure less than a millimetre in diameter, it is also pierced with
hundreds of tiny apertures (several tens of micrometres wide), to
facilitate communication between the embryo and its natural
The design and production of this capsule, which had to be
compatible with the transfer catheters already used at present,
required extremely high precision techniques and the leading-edge
expertise of Prof. Patrick Aebischer's team in cell encapsulation.
The solution developed by Anecova has been closely protected by
the filing of numerous patents, and is currently in its clinical
trial phase at the MAP Centre at Brussels Free University Hospital,
under the direction of Prof. Paul Devroey. These initial clinical
trials have produced more than encouraging results, in terms of
technical feasibility, the physical and psychological tolerance of
patients and, particularly, the quality of the embryos.
From now on clinical trials will also be ongoing in two other
European countries, and their rigorous scientific results will be
published next year. Anecova will then apply for the authorizations
necessary to market its solution, priority being given to Europe, the
US, Japan and China.
"We hope to be able to launch the Anecova solution in 2008,"
explained Martin Velasco, before adding that the company's prime
objective is to pursue its research in medically assisted procreation
and to market its solution. Anecova will thus be sub-contracting the
manufacture of the numerous components involved to companies
specialised in micro-technologies. It will retain overall control
over final assembly and development of the system at its Epalinges
laboratories, however, in order to protect its expertise and ensure
high quality standards.
With these objectives in mind, Anecova is considering hiring some
fifteen new specialists during 2007.
When asked about other applications of this solution, Martin
Velasco and Dr. Mock emphasised the fact that the Anecova solution
(the preclinical studies were performed in cattle) could, of course,
also be applied to animal reproduction. In this respect, it should
also be pointed out that INRA (the French Institute for Agricultural
Research) and its German counterpart, the Bundesforschungsanstalt für
Landwirtschaft, are fully aware of the system's major potential and
have been working in close collaboration with Anecova.
ots Originaltext: Anecova SA
Martin Velasco, President and CEO of Anecova
Violaine Dällenbach, Rochat & Partners