The first reported pregnancy in the United States involving the use of donor eggs was in 1984. However, egg donation wasn’t popular right away. IVF clinics were initially slow to offer egg donation. Clinicians were cautious about investing time and energy into a service offering they weren’t sure would be popular among the patient population.
The innovative founders at GIVF, however, saw how egg donation could profoundly affect the future of many of its patients. Prior to egg donation IVF, adoption or child-free living were the only options for those experiencing egg-related infertility. With egg donation, women with egg-related infertility now had the chance to conceive. GIVF carefully researched egg donation and set up the program infrastructure. After several years of planning, in 1988, GIVF formally launched its egg donation program to its patients.
GIVF’s egg donation program quickly became nationally acclaimed, known for its success and comprehensive service offering. While the program grew, the founders stayed closely attuned to advancements in egg donation technology. Egg vitrification, or rapid cooling” of oocytes, was starting to make waves in the IVF world in the early 2000s, with the first birth from vitrified eggs reported in 1999. Prior to vitrification, cryopreservation was done using “slow freezing” methods. The issue with slow freezing was that eggs were susceptible to developing ice crystals. This would damage the egg and ultimately compromise its viability. Egg vitrification mitigated the risk of ice crystals formation and therefore could generate better success rates. Says Founder and Scientific Director, Andy Dorfmann MSC, ELD, “As I look back at that time, the techniques were rather crude by today’s standards. But, the excitement of this work was palpable. It was thrilling to first prove that we could vitrify and warm oocytes and have credible survival, fertilization and embryo development. Later when we achieved our first pregnancy, it was a watershed moment for me and the nascent EggBank.”
The techniques to vitrify and warm eggs have become more refined and repeatable over the ensuing years. It wasn’t until 2012 that The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) changed its guidance on oocyte vitrification to remove the “experimental” label. Instead, it now considered it as standard care for infertility patients. Despite these early challenges, Andy knew frozen donor oocytes had the potential to transform the practice of donor egg IVF. “The idea that oocytes could be banked was very compelling,” he affirmed. “These oocytes would be immediately available, and there would be no need to synchronize donors and recipients to cycle together. The Fairfax EggBank, like many successful endeavors, began as a dream. Eventually, it became a reality with a great deal of hard work and a little bit of good fortune.”
Not only did GIVF see the potential of a frozen donor egg bank, but its founders also possessed confidence and expertise in donor gamete banking. After all, one of its companies is Fairfax Cryobank, one of the largest sperm banks in operation since the 1980s. Egg vitrification was new and there were a lot of unknowns on how to properly set up a donor egg bank. But, Fairfax EggBank would be able to hit the ground running. The company also had access to clinicians and embryologists with decades of experience.
Launching Fairfax EggBank was a logical and natural decision. The founders first used frozen donor oocytes internally for their own patients for several years under the auspices of an IRB (Institutional Review Board). Later, they launched the Fairfax EggBank as a commercial entity in 2010.
With GIVF offering fresh and frozen donor eggs, its patients were increasingly choosing frozen donor eggs over fresh. Word was beginning to spread among IVF clinics and patients about the advantages of frozen donor eggs.
Seeing how patients around the world could benefit from frozen donor eggs, the founders expanded Fairfax EggBank in 2012 to select IVF clinic partners. Patients from other IVF clinics could use a Fairfax EggBank donor, on the condition that the IVF clinic completes a lab collaboration session. This collaboration session, led by our oocyte and embryology expert, is critical so that the embryologists feel comfortable executing Fairfax EggBank’s proprietary egg warming technique.
Fairfax EggBank added donor centers across the country. This bolsters the donor pool and makes it more diverse so that recipients had rich donor options to choose from. Equally as important, Fairfax EggBank established its company mission to all it served: to provide recipients with the best possible chances of conceiving a healthy baby, while delivering the most personalized, warm service possible.
Says Andy proudly, “Fairfax EggBank today is almost unrecognizable to what we were in those early years. Once the technical details were hammered out, we began to focus in earnest on clinic and client relationships and service. It is one thing to be able to vitrify oocytes. It is quite another to deliver those oocytes to clinics around the country where they are used successfully.”
Today, Fairfax EggBank is a household name among IVF clinics.
Andy continues, “Today we routinely store and distribute thousands of oocytes on a daily basis, both into and out of our main facility here in Fairfax, VA. We have grown from a small operation serving our own patients to a large and busy operation in which we work with 250+ clinics around the country and abroad. But at our core, our mission has not changed. Our goal is to help couples achieve the family of their dreams.”
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