Researchers Greg Sommer and Ulrich Schaff have created a portable test kit for gauging a man's sperm quality that could be available to consumers as early as 2015.
"It allows men to test and track their fertility from the comfort and privacy of their own homes," Sommer said. "It's a portable, easy-to-use diagnostic system with the accuracy of a clinical lab test."
The test would give results within a few minutes, the scientists said.
They said technology they helped create during their time at Sandia was the basis for the device. Both participated in a project at a Sandia California lab site where they created a device that quickly detects toxins or other biological threats in emergency first responders.
Sommer and Schaff licensed the technology from Sandia. In 2012, they founded their own startup, Sandstone Diagnostics Inc., to develop the fertility-test device, which they called TrakFertility.
The home diagnostic would help men who are focused on fertility issues to regularly keep watch over their sperm quality, Sommer said. They also are developing a mobile app so men can use their phones to study the results and learn how to discuss them with their doctors.
Fertility solutions are often more focused on women, Sommer said.
"We want to help people conceive in a way never done before," he said. "The market today is completely focused on females to monitor hormones, temperatures and so forth for peak fertility windows each month. But one of every five men has low-sperm counts that can impair conception."
John Chavez, president of the New Mexico Angels, looks for startups the 70-member group can jointly invest in. The group plans to invest in the company because "Sandstone is addressing a truly untapped market need. That adds a lot of value to their product," he said.
Sandstone, however, has no plans to mass-market the test kits. Sommer and Schaff said they would rather sell to consumers through a partnership with established medical companies.