Welcome to Episode 2 of the International IVF Podcast and this is the first in our upcoming profile episodes where we speak to the greats of IVF, those amongst us who have been working in the field since the early days. Jacques Cohen is the CEO of the International IVF Initiative and has an extremely impressive CV. His postdoctoral studies (1982-1985) were performed at Cambridge University (UK) and Bourn Hall Clinic working under Prof Robert Edwards which is what we wanted to talk with him about in this episode.
What we discussed:
When Jacques first met Bob in the late 70’s at a two conference in the Netherlands and the impact that Bob’s closing lecture had on him, as it was unlike anything Jaques had ever heard before. He had been looking forward to it as he was 12 months into a Masters in ART. Jacques went and spoke to Bob then and described how despite his fame, he was still happy to talk to people.
Jacques talked about meeting Bob some years later who remembered his time in the Netherlands fondly as he had returned back in the UK and received a call from Gene Purdy about Leslie Brown, the mother of Louise Brown the UK’s first IVF baby, who had a positive pregnancy test.
In 1982, Jacques applied for an embryology job, Simon Fishel had already been hired and Jacques talked about Jean Purdy and her role as a technician and her role was to make sure that the ‘Mad Science’ was in an environment like an operating theatre. Bob came from an animal science background and wasn’t used to sterile and organised laboratories.
Jean Purdy was the person who helped to organise Bob and his practice.
Jacques described what Lab life was like eg.how egg collection couldn’t be timed like it is today.
How they looked at LH’s collecting samples several times a day.
Bob was exhausted as the only embryologist, only being assisted by Simon Fishel and then after advertising in Nature magazine, Jacques and Carol Faheley were employed out of 200 applicants.
Jacques also describes what the patient's experience was like in the early days - being inpatients, which added financial pressures to Bourn Hall. Husbands were also having to be nearby either in a hotel or a room in the village. All of the studies were way before Ultrasound became a science - they had to rely on estradiol and LH.
Jacques talks about maternal serum - which was used in the procedure for Louise Brown’s birth, also using donor serem.
The consent procedure was mainly oral.
How Porta Cabins were used for the treatment rooms and parts of the clinic, meant to be used for 6 months and were used for 5 years.
Jacques described working with Bob and Jean when they were making culture media and what the process was like to witness, with all the checks and how much he learnt from it.
He talks about how the different labs were organised.
The daily meetings the team would have.
Bob's work running journals as Editor and then his decision to leave and then setting up RBM online and how he went on to make a career out of editing, sharing knowledge and publishing and how ahead of his time with the whole concept of ‘online’ information.
Not only was he a pioneer in IVF, but he was also a visionary in his editing and publishing of major journals for 25 years.
How Bob was consumed 365 days a year about publishing and sharing knowledge and was a big fan of the modern ways of sharing communication.
Media production and how they have changed and its impact on success rates.