In Press: AFS’s Samuel Prien tackles fertility from the male side
By: Norman Martin
Sam Prien, a noted professor of reproductive physiology in Texas Tech's Department of Animal & Food Sciences, was recently featured in a detailed article focusing on fertility-related issues by journalist Monica Haider in Forbes magazine. Here's part of the takeaway.
Many patients with fertility-related diagnoses in the United States experienced cancelled treatment or delays during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The time-sensitive nature of fertility treatment however, can translate any delay into a missed opportunity.
The team at Reproductive Solutions had developed the ProteX, a noninvasive container for collecting semen that could be utilized in IUI and IVF procedures years before. They had a company takeover in 2021, brought new leadership and experienced an uptick in demand from fertility clinics during the pandemic.
The original research team included Sam Prien, a nationally-recognized professor of reproductive physiology and assisted reproduction in Texas Tech's Department of Animal & Food Sciences. Named a Fellow in the National Academy of Inventors (2021), Prien holds a joint appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the School of Medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
“When we talk about infertility, it's such a stressful process,” co-founder Dustie Johnson said. “And we take such an intimate activity and we put it in a clinical setting.” Being able to collect sperm at home and taking it to a clinic at one's convenience is a game changer for the industry, she said. Johnson is a Midland, Texas-based reproductive physiologist, who received her doctorate (2005) in animal science from Tech's Department of Animal & Food Sciences.
The global fertility treatments market is expected to reach $21.7 billion by 2025. With the ProteX, the team aims to help people struggling with conception while tackling it from the male side. Studies illustrate that the male is the only cause or a contributing cause of infertility in 40 percent of couples dealing with infertility. But facilitating sperm collection and ensuring men are comfortable with in-clinic processes can be challenging. In the past two years, collecting at one's home versus in a clinic during a time of uncertainty has brought new meaning to these scientifically engineered containers, and a three-fold increase in use.
Johnson is one of the two women behind the invention, developing it out of her graduate study research for her doctoral degree at Texas Tech. The initial studies were done over a five-year period. Lindsay Penrose, who currently works the infertility program lab at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and is a scientific advisor in the company, was completing her doctoral degree and was working alongside Johnson and Prien to develop it. Penrose's doctorate (2010) is also from Tech's Department of Animal & Food Sciences.
Prien currently holds five U.S. patents, 20 international patents and three copyrights. His first U.S. patent was for a method of collecting and preserving semen, which was Texas Tech's first patent focused on reproductive science, a patent that has reached the marketplace via a license agreement between Texas Tech and Reproductive Solutions.
“A lot of the focus on infertility has been on the female side of the equation,” Johnson said, pointing out that traditionally, it's more common to look at women and ensure they have more available eggs used for infertility procedures. This inspired the team to design a product to collect semen that met the physiological needs of the sperm—maintaining a stable temperature inside the container and allowing it to survive for several hours before being processed.
CONTACT: Chance Brooks, Interim Chair and Professor, Department of Animal & Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2808 or email@example.com
0304NM22 / To view the full-text version of Monica Haider's article in Forbes, please click here
- Agricultural & Applied Economics
- Agricultural Education & Communications
- Animal & Food Sciences
- Landscape Architecture
- Natural Resources Management
- Plant & Soil Science
- Veterinary Science
Editor: Norman Martin
Maps: Where to Find It