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12 November 2012

Technology set to ease IVF experience

Cambridge Consultants develops piOna auto-injector concept to ease the trauma of fertility treatment

A new auto-injector concept has been designed by innovative product development firm Cambridge Consultants in a bid to ease the trauma for women undergoing fertility treatment. The piOna device has been developed to help patients who need regular injections of progesterone in oil (PiO). The daily intra-muscular injections are often the most dreaded and stressful part of the IVF process as they involve a large and long needle and typically take the patient more than a minute to administer due to the viscosity of the oil.

Progesterone supplements are a vital part of fertility treatment as the hormone helps sustain the pregnancy to full term. The supplements usually take the form of pills or suppositories. But in some cases women need higher doses of the hormone – which involves regular self-administered injections. The intimidating and complex nature of the injections, however, means some patients are unable to administer the PiO properly or delay or miss injections, which can lower the success rate of the fertility treatment.

The PiO injections involve warming the oil to make it less viscous and then using a syringe fitted with a 22-gauge, 1.5-inch needle to inject the progesterone deep into the muscle. Patients often find it difficult to find the right angle, speed and temperature to ensure correct and painless drug delivery.

The new auto-injector concept guides the patient though the injection process – with audible, visual and tactile signals at each stage and the needle hidden from view – reducing the injection duration by up to 30%. The piOna device automatically warms the oil to the optimum temperature, and its ergonomic and intuitive design makes it easy to hold and use – even for awkward posterior injections. Once the device has made contact with the skin, only a small downward pressure is required to trigger the auto-injection. The technology could also be used for other viscous drugs that need to be self-injected.

As well as being faster and easier to use, the new piOna device could help reduce the amount of swelling and additional side effects around the injected area that patients have to endure. By automating the temperature and injection speed of the PiO, it will help the solution dissipate when it enters the body.

Lai Chiu Tang, senior industrial designer at Cambridge Consultants, said: “Fertility treatment is a very stressful and difficult process for a woman to go through and – after discussions with fertility nurses – we felt it was important to tackle the usability issues of self-administered PiO injections. Providing women with the confidence to administer a drug dosage without fear of unnecessary pain and stress will open doors to this technology platform being used in all manner of drug delivery. Improving the user experience will help women all over the world to gain access to health opportunities which were previously perceived to be unobtainable.”

One of Boston Medical Center's IVF affiliates – the Reproductive Science Center – handles more than 2,800 assisted reproduction cycles per year.  “Every one of our patients takes progesterone as part of their infertility treatment,” said Wendy Kuohung, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine, whose practice sites include the Reproductive Science Center and the Boston Medical Center. “There are various methods to administer progesterone and, in certain situations such as frozen embryo transfer cycles, intramuscular injection is still considered the most effective route of delivery. 

“Patients may self-administer up to 70 injections during the course of treatment. Already burdened by the stress of infertility, our patients universally find the current manual injection method difficult, painful and anxiety-provoking. After seeing this auto-injector prototype, I have to say that I'm impressed as I believe any innovation in this area will be a great benefit to my patients.”

* You can see what it's like for a patient undergoing the intra-muscular injections here:

Notes to editors

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 550 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, oil and gas, and wireless communications.

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting which offers its clients a new way to innovate. The Group develops with, or for, its clients the products and services of tomorrow. Altran works along with its clients on every link in the value chain of their project, from conception to industrialisation. With a staff of nearly 26,000 employees in more than 20 countries, the Group generated revenues of €1.945bn in 2015. For more information, visit:

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