Problem solver

BluDiagnostics cofounder works to take the unknown out of fertility struggles.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Helping women fulfill their dreams of having children is more than a scientific puzzle for Katie Brenner, 36, post-doctoral biochemistry fellow at UW–Madison and cofounder of BluDiagnostics in Madison. It’s a personal mission.

Brenner has walked in those shoes. She and her husband, now parents of three children, struggled initially through a miscarriage, blood tests, and other challenges. She found the fertility process slow and frustrating.

Noting that 25% of all women in the U.S. will struggle at some point to get pregnant, Brenner says fertility is a huge issue.

“Women need to understand what’s going on with their bodies. They want more information. We want to know!”

Her company’s Fertility Finder will help, she promises.

Brenner’s passion no doubt helped recently attract $600,000 in outside funding, topping a banner 2015 when the company won the Governor’s Business Plan Contest as well as the Greater Madison Chamber’s Pressure Chamber Pitch contest, which sent Brenner on an investor-finding trip to Silicon Valley.

IB captured some of her thoughts in a recent conversation.

IB: You were an engineer first. Were you always a whiz kid in science?
No! But I had a real passion for solving problems in the world and having the tools available to me to do that. That’s what engineering provides. Who doesn’t want to be a problem-solver?

IB: How did BluDiagnostics come about?
I had some fertility issues and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, someone should solve this!’ So I’ve been working on this fertility project for about three years, but we formed the company just a year ago.

IB: What is BluDiagnostics?
We are helping women understand their bodies and take control of their fertility. Hormones have been studied for years, and even now testing hormones through saliva is done, but nobody to my knowledge has ever developed a home-use test that quantitatively measures hormones in saliva.

IB: And that’s what Fertility Finder will do?
Yes. It measures the presence of two hormones: estradiol and progesterone.

Our usage method follows the basal body temperature-taking method, which is something a lot of women do right now. We hope women will use the test each day when they first wake up. It’s equivalent to taking your temperature except that you get medically relevant information that will be transmitted to an app or to your doctor. You can know four days in advance when you will be ovulating.



IB: What challenges did you encounter along the way?
Figuring out how to measure was the first technical challenge and the hardest thing, but it also took me a while to believe that other people would want this. I spent a long time thinking, ‘This is a problem I face. Would others get excited about it?’

I had the solution before I ever believed in it enough to start the company.

IB: Why should women pay attention?
Our test can quickly tell if a woman is perfectly normal or that she’s having difficulty getting pregnant not because of an issue with cycle or ovulation, but maybe it’s the reproductive tract or the male component. Until now, women would just try and try and try and everyone assumes it’s a problem with her.

IB: What are the next steps?
Getting a product that can be manufactured and get it out to women. All efforts are on fundraising. Then we’ll do a clinical trial. We’ll be on the market in the middle of 2018. That’s our aim.

We want to provide women with something that is incredibly reliable. There will not be questions or recalls. This is something women will trust, and that’s very, very important to women in this struggle.

There’s too much quackery out there already.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.