Issue: The 10 Most Influential Women Making a Difference in Healthcare 2021

Dra. Marisa López-Teijón: Helping Families Fulfill their Dream of Parenthood

Human fertility has been declining all over the world since the last few decades now, including in both developed and developing countries. It is commonly believed that over 70 million couples suffer from infertility across the globe. There are various reasons causing the decline in fertility. However, the major factors include delay in the age for having the first child, as well as the sperm quality, which has been decreasing in recent years, especially in industrialized areas. As cases of infertility across the globe continue to increase, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is getting more advanced and prevalent in society. Dealing with infertility is certainly not easy however the growing acceptance of ART is helping couples achieve their dream of becoming parents thanks to fertility treatments. Institut Marquès is fulfilling the dreams of parenthood since last five decades and innovating the assisted reproduction technology with centers in Barcelona, London, Ireland (Dublin and Clane) and Milan. Leading the technology with an excellence based medical care, Institute Marquès treats patients from more than 50 countries. Institut Marquès is a center of international renown in Gynecology and Assisted Reproduction with almost a century of experience.

A century old legacy driving the way into future

Institut Marquès owes its name to the family whose members have represented the center’s unity and continuity throughout time. Dr Vicens Marquès i Bertran (Barcelona, 1895-1977) began practicing as a gynecologist in 1922, ninety-eight years ago. Around the end of the ‘80s, both the elder son, Dr Leonardo Marquès Amorós, and Dra. Marisa López-Teijón, initiated their activity at Institut Marquès. They introduced very advanced techniques for the time, such as surgical and diagnostic hysteroscopy, and improved the already existing assisted reproduction techniques. In 1989, they inaugurated their first In-Vitro-Fertilization Laboratory. Throughout the following years, the laboratory kept on expanding and incorporated the newest techniques. The fourth generation of gynecologists of the Marquès family, Dr Borja Marquès, is now also part of the clinic’s team. “Our main motivation is to help families with fertility issues; to fulfill their dream of parenthood” explains Dra. Marisa López-Teijón, CEO of Institut Marquès.

Devising the most advanced technology for reproductive medicine

The center has a broad portfolio of Assisted Reproduction services with its own Premium Sperm Bank and a broad program of gamete and embryo donation. Institut Marquès offers several alternatives for those patients that need a Donor Artificial Insemination or an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), depending on whether they want to use anonymous or identifiable donors for their treatment. “We have several specialized treatment units: Genetic Advice and Hereditary Diseases, Recurrent Miscarriages, Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and Andrology (male fertility). Institut Marquès keeps on devising the most advanced technology for reproductive medicine in order to help out people with fertility issues to build a family. Next to the basic treatment, we recommend some special add-on techniques, proposing only those that have shown to be effective such as the Preimplantation Genetic Test (PGT), diverse techniques focusing on the male factor (Fertile, IMSI…) or the Embryoscope incubator (Time-lapse technology),” Dra. López-Teijón shares.

Developing and implementing pioneering and innovative projects

Dra. López-Teijón firmly shares that they are constantly carrying out innovative scientific studies to improve Assisted Reproduction treatments. Music, mobile technology, telemedicine and the use of virtual reality are some of the innovations that Institut Marquès is already using in its clinics. She explains, “We have developed a world pioneer innovation project with the aim to improve the IVF by implementing music in all our embryo incubators in our Assisted Reproduction laboratories. Our scientific studies have demonstrated that music micro-vibrations produce movements similar to those that fertilised eggs experience in their journey through the fallopian tubes and the uterus; they stir the culture medium, achieving a more homogeneous distribution of nutrients and scattering the waste metabolites. The use of music represents a significant advance in order to reproduce in our laboratories the natural conditions that embryos would have if they were in the maternal uterus. It is also a key factor of the increase of our success rates.” On the other hand, she believes mobile phones have turned into another technological ally to improve the results of fertility treatments. The Embryomobile app, developed by Institut Marquès, allows parents a real time follow-up of their embryos while they are in the incubator from any location. It is a commitment to transparency that, furthermore, reduces the stress of the mother before the embryo transfer considerably, favouring the implantation to achieve pregnancy. Institut Marquès is the only centre where patients can really see how their embryos are.

Additionally, Dra. López-Teijón says telemedicine is the medicine of the future. In this area, Institut Marquès is using videoconferences to communicate with patients all over the world. In addition, the centre has developed and patented the Sperm Freezekit. This new technique allows patients to cryopreserve their sperm anywhere in the world and send it to the clinic, without having to travel. “This is a practical and convenient solution for males who are away from home and who have difficulties for travelling to the clinic to undergo fertility treatment with their partner or, simply, for privacy reasons. And, always thinking about the male, the sample delivery rooms at Institut Marquès have an evocative design and include erotic devices to improve sexual arousal, such as virtual reality glasses. This is the Erotic Personal System, a special protocol aimed at obtaining the best sperm as Institut Marquès’ studies have established a link between semen quality and the erotic visual stimulation through virtual reality,” Dra. López-Teijón adds.

One of its kind centers delivering unique service

The center has become an international reference in its sector, with presence in four European countries. It is highly recognized because of its studies on sperm quality and its Andrology Unit, specialized in male infertility. Thanks to its research, the relationship between environmental toxins and low male fertility has been demonstrated. The “Male Fertility Unit” is one of the services that differentiate this clinic from its competitors. This is something noteworthy to point out, since, currently, it is estimated that the male factor (male infertility) is associated with more than 50% of cases of conjugal infertility, In 30% of cases, the male factor is the only responsible party and in the remaining 20%, it appears combined with a female factor. Fertility problems have increased over the past years. Apart from sperm quality, Dra. López-Teijón also says that we must also take into account the appearance of new family models that expand the profile of women who opt for motherhood, either as a couple or on their own.

She and her team are very proud of their Embryoadoption Program. Dra. López-Teijón explains, “The embryo adoption program was launched in 2004 to give the embryos frozen in our center a possibility to live. From the beginning, the response has been exciting because of the social acceptance, the support offered by different groups and the enthusiasm with which women from all over the world come to us to adopt them. There are fewer international adoptions of children and more international adoptions of embryos. Behind each case, there is a special story, either of many failures in previous treatments or having given up the possibility of being parents.”

Institut Marquès was pioneer in the world launching this initiative: Embryos that are not transferred remain under the custody of the clinic when the parents do not want to decide on their destination. Therefore, this center of Barcelona decided to offer them in adoption to its patients. In accordance with the Spanish law, the embryos available under this program come from healthy parents, under the age of 35, who have successfully undergone an In-Vitro-Fertilization treatment and who no longer want to have more children. During the 15-year life of the program, patients from 124 different nationalities attended the Institut Marquès’ centers. It is the clinic in the world where more embryo adoptions take place. Dra. López-Teijón receives plenty of feedback from her patients, also from those that have not yet started their treatment with the center. The following is an example of the many testimonials that keeps the team at Institut Marquès motivating daily:

Institut Marquès will be my place

My history with Institut Marquès is still very recent; I barely made my first consultation today via Skype, since I live in the United States. But my path through infertility is much longer and that’s why I want to write these words to you. I have already done an In Vitro Fertilisation treatment, which failed due to chromosomal problems in the embryos. Looking for options to fulfill my dream of being a mother, I found Institut Marquès, where they carry out embryo adoption. I was amazed and immediately contacted them. It didn’t take them long to answer me and give me a free of charge appointment. The interview with the doctor flowed with spectacular naturalness and answered all my doubts. She gave me all the time I needed and made me feel very comfortable. I have not yet made the final decision to undergo embryo adoption, but I greatly appreciate the human warmth and professionalism of all the staff at Institut Marquès. As soon as this pandemic calms down, I will travel to meet you. And I have no need to search for more options. This will be my place.

Mariana

(New York, May 2020)

One of the most influential researchers in the world

As the CEO of Institut Marquès, Dra. López-Teijón divides her time between Institut Marquès’s General Management, the consultation and the Research and Development Project Team. She is very proud of the fact that the scientific platform ResearchGate set her among the top 10% of the most influential researchers in the world. “Our research about the effects of music at the beginning of life has to be the one of the greatest achievements. In this field, international institutions have recognized us, including the Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine, the first awarded in the category of Obstetrics in the 27-year history of the award at Harvard University,” she further asserts. Dra. López-Teijón’s motivations are “our patients, their story, the colleagues at Institut Marquès, nurturing team-work and everybody who is part of it.” Additionally, “The best Formula 1 pilots are in the best teams, the best football and basketball players are in the Premier League teams. The same happens with doctors. Therefore, fertility clinics should make their biggest investment in their medical staff.” Advising aspiring businesswomen, Dra. López-Teijón says, “They should pursue excellence in what they do: excellence is not perfection; excellence is not predicting the future: it is inventing it by carrying out innovative and courageous projects. I also believe that excellence is a state of mind that involves determination, ingenuity, and fun. Excellence is to exceed expectations: to promise a star and give away the sun.”

Continuing fighting to normalize the social consideration of infertility

Dra. López-Teijón proudly shares that Institut Marquès will continue to innovate and adapt around its latest findings to ensure it remains successful in all of its endeavors. On the other hand, infertility in Europe is still taboo. Society’s attitude towards infertility can condition the way in which the treatment is experienced. In clinical practice it is always helpful to know how to help the patient stay emotionally positive. Institut Marquès will keep fighting to normalize the social consideration of infertility. Furthermore, she believes progress in technology is changing how things work and innovation in healthcare should be oriented towards facilitating processes for patients. “Telemedicine is imposed thanks to the wide range of possibilities offered by progress in email communication and fast messaging. The consultations via Skype are increasing, patients in our center can observe the development of their embryos online and now we have created the sperm self-freezing kit. This is a new method for the patients to freeze their sperm themselves wherever they are. It is named Sperm Freezekit and it facilitates the sperm collection to those men who are undergoing an Assisted Reproduction treatment. This kind of projects will write our roadmap for the future,’ Dra. López-Teijón concludes.

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