DR. JONATHAN HALL PHD

FOUNDER, DIRECTOR & CHIEF SCIENTIST, LIFE WHISPERER

THOUGHT

Leader

AN INNOVATOR OF INDUSTRY
“WE WANTED TO IMPROVE OUTCOMES FOR COUPLES, TO MAKE FERTILITY TREATMENTS MORE TRANSPARENT AND AFFORDABLE.”

As Featured In:

STORY & CHALLENGES
In 2016, I was nearing the end of a frontier research project to combine interdisciplinary knowledge to ask if a biological cell could sustain light circulating inside: called ‘whispering gallery modes’. Could we go further, and turn a cell into a laser, with the hope of it being able to record its own self-diagnostics?

It was a bold conjecture. The resonances were measured, and the burst of light was only just sustainable in one particular type of cell: embryos. But the key to it all was one word – the holy grail of fledging medical technology: non-invasive. What if we could validate our lab simulations, and sell a computer vison program?

It was leading edge technology. What if people could drag and drop embryo images onto a website, and it would give an instant, reliable prediction as to which are healthy? It could disrupt the IVF industry. What happened next though would be an epic adventure.

Crucially, the insights of resonances around the boundary of the egg shell, and my background in particle physics allow me to simplify the problem, identifying the key features of embryo quality, reducing the entropy of the data so that it could be used by almost any camera system. We wanted to improve outcomes for couples, to make fertility treatments more transparent and affordable for couples.

Imagine the doctors who have to come to the waiting room while the patient is crying, not able to explain why this time the IVF didn’t work. What we can do now is provide confidence bands for every single embryo. If you can measure accurately the likelihood of implantation, and of genetic health, you can help couples to prepare and plan, and set realistic expectations for their journey.

With repeated failures, expensive fees and traumatic hormone treatments, morale can become so low that couples can walk away in the middle of their therapies. The priority order of embryo transfer matters in keeping patients enrolled until their first pregnancy – the golden window after their first brave step in seeking treatment can be make-or-break for them. Life Whisperer reduces the risk of disappointments and cost due to repeated difficult attempts to have a much wanted baby, which is such a heart-felt hope for many people.

The future of medical imaging in fertility is non-invasive, objective and instant through deep learning and computer vision, starting from egg quality assessment, linking morphology to genetics, and optimising drug delivery to reduce risks to the embryos, and reduce pain for couples, making the process more cost-effective, reliable, and safer.

Jonathan is an MIT TechReview Innovator Under 35 (Asia-Pacific), winner of the Global Winner One to Watch at TalentUnleashed and InDaily 40 under 40 Entrepreneur, holds a Ph.D in Theoretical Physics and in Embryo Nanotechnology and metamaterials, and holds Associate Investigator / Visiting Fellow at the University of Adelaide.

Other INNOVATE® Ecosystems