We are a company focused on the development of new treatment options for women and couples struggling with infertility. Each OvaScience treatment is based on the Company’s proprietary technology platform that leverages the breakthrough discovery of egg precursor (EggPC℠) cells – immature egg cells found within the outer ovarian cortex.
The discovery of EggPC cells
Unlike males who maintain reproductive potential throughout their entire life, females experience ovarian dysfunction culminating in complete loss of ovarian function far earlier than any other organ system. The median age of normal menopause in women is 51 years and is characterized by the cessation of menses for 12 months and exhaustion of ovarian reserve. The previously assumed ‘non-renewable’ pool of eggs present in a woman’s ovary provided the basis for the idea of a ticking ‘biological clock.’
In 2004, one of OvaScience’s scientific founders, Jonathan Tilly, Ph.D., who at the time was the co-founder and Director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, made a discovery that challenged this long-held belief. While it is true that women are born with a set number of eggs, Dr. Tilly’s lab discovered the existence of EggPC cells – immature egg cells found within the outer ovarian cortex – in adult mice. Subsequent research published by Yvonne A. R. White et al., in the journal Nature Medicine in 2012 demonstrated that EggPC cells also exist in human ovaries and these cells may have the capacity to mature into new eggs. Numerous studies have been published from multiple research groups around the globe supporting the existence of EggPC cells (also called female germline stem cells or oogonial stem cells) in mammals, including humans. This supportive body of literature includes more than 50 peer reviewed publications from over 17 leading labs studying reproductive biology worldwide.
Unlike ‘true’ stem cells (e.g., embryonic stem cells) which are pluripotent, EggPC cells are believed to be unipotent, undifferentiated germ cells that exist in the ovary from fetal development. The cells are thought to be largely dormant in situ in the human body and can be isolated from ovarian tissue using an antibody-based cell sorting approach.
The presence of EggPC cells challenges historical beliefs about the limitations of female reproductive potential as these cells could provide extraordinary possibilities to help improve female fertility. In 2013, OvaScience was founded by Richard Aldrich, Michelle Dipp, M.D., Ph.D., David Sinclair, Ph.D., Jonathan Tilly, Ph.D. and Christophe Westphal, M.D., Ph.D. with the hope of translating this groundbreaking scientific discovery into potential new treatment options for women and couples struggling with infertility. The Company licensed the EggPC cell-related intellectual property from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Today, OvaScience is developing new treatment options based on the EggPC cell technology: the OvaPrime℠ treatment, which could help restore a woman’s egg production, and the OvaTure℠ treatment which could eliminate the need for hormone stimulation. OvaScience’s AUGMENT℠ treatment is designed to improve embryo development and pregnancy rates, and is available in Japan under an exclusive license to IVF Japan. OvaScience’s treatments are not available in the United States.