Donor selection: how to find a donor that’s right for you?

Joshua Rackstraw
(Former) Product Owner of Fenomatch

Donor Eggs

How to find a right donor.
From this video you will find out:
  • How does the Fenomatch algorithm work?
  • Does Fenomatch help with finding egg as well as a sperm donor?
  • What about ethnicity verification?
  • How accurate is Fenomatch?
  • Can anyone have access to Fenomatch?

How can I find a donor that looks like me?

Watch the webinar with Joshua Rackstraw, Former Product Owner at Fenomatch, who is explaining the idea behind Fenomatch and the algorithm that helps doctors find the right egg/sperm donor for the recipient.

In Spain and many countries in Europe, the patients don’t get a lot of information about the donors. The Fenomatch platform has been created to do a donor selection which can be used by clinics around the world. If you’re having or considering fertility treatment with an egg or sperm donation, then your medical team can use this platform to search for a donor using the latest techniques and artificial intelligence. Fenomatch has been able to help 7 000 families to find a donor so far. Fenomatch cooperates with some of the biggest clinics in Europe.

The standard criteria that are checked when looking for a donor are things like hair colour, hair type, eye colour, ethnicity, skin tone, height body, and type, not weight because your weight can fluctuate, all those features are phenotypic. These features are important because they affect what children look like, so for example, if you have blue eyes and your partner has blue eyes, then you can find a donor that has blue eyes. The idea is that the donor-assisted child will have a greater resemblance to other members of the family, essentially, as is done in most clinics.

Fenomatch has one more added feature, which is facial matching. It’s possible to compare 12 000 data points to find the donor that looks most like the patient. It works with egg or sperm donation and heterosexual and homosexual couples. It’s possible to use photographs of men or women to find egg or sperm donors. Fenomatch’s algorithm was built by analysing the faces of members of the same family to let the computer learn what traits are phenotypic.

How does it work?

First, you give a photograph of your face to your doctor at the clinic, it has to be very similar to a passport photograph, you have to be looking straight at the camera, you should have your facial muscles relaxed, you shouldn’t be smiling, it works best with no makeup, no jewellery and no glasses and that’s the way to get the best result.

Other things that are also included in the donor’s profile are hobbies and interests. These are not genetic traits, but it’s completely normal for intended parents to want to know information about the donors. Genetically, it’s not important, but psychologically it can be incredibly helpful when a patient is making this very difficult decision. Blood type can also be important in some specific situations. Genetic screening or DNA testing is also very important because you may be perfectly healthy, have no symptoms, and have no family history, but you can still be the carrier of a recessive gene for something like cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s haemophilia, colour blindness, or spinal muscular atrophy. Several genetic disorders can be tested, and carrier screening checks those recessive genes, and then the risk of passing those genes onto the child can be minimized.

Ethnicity verification is something which can be done by AI nowadays as well. There are essentially two points in the process in which ethnicity verification can be done, so firstly, the photograph of the donor can be verified to make sure it matches the stated ethnicity of that donor, and if you’re doing phenotype matching, then ethnicity verification will check that the donor and the recipient are of the same ethnicity.

The psychological aspect behind donor selection is again crucial in the egg donation process. If you’re looking for a donor, you should do a lot of research, a lot of investigation and learn as much as you can. Then take the same amount of time just to reflect on your options, come to terms with the decision, talk to your partner, talk to your fertility counsellor, and do all the things to feel comfortable before proceeding with the egg donation cycle.

- Questions and Answers

Does epigenetics play a big part in influencing the baby when the mother is carrying a donor embryo?

Yes, this is something that your doctors will be able to help you with, essentially. When the mother is carrying the fetus, the embryo is developing. It’s something you should definitely consider. I do think it’s something you should talk to your doctor about.

Do you cooperate with clinics only in Spain or elsewhere as well?

We are from Spain, I’m actually English, but Fenomatch is from Spain, and we work around Europe. We’re also in Southern America, India, Asia basically more or less worldwide. We’re not in the US yet, there is a slightly unusual situation because legislation depends on the states, but because most of the time, the donation is non-anonymous, the situation with legislation is a little bit different.

Are the results provided by the Fenomatch algorithm displayed as you have a 45% match f. e.?

Yes, basically, this is one thing that’s really important to us. We give the medical team all of the information to allow the expert to make the best decision for this patient. There is a notification if a donor receives a particularly low score. If there is a very little facial resemblance then the doctor is notified, but essentially, the doctor is the one that makes the final decision.

My clinic works with an agency that recruits donors for fresh transfers. How would you describe the additional benefits of using your service instead?

You wouldn’t be using our service instead. What we do at Fenomatch is we connect, we have a facial algorithm, facial matching algorithm, which can be used to access donor databases that are held externally to us. If you’re recruiting donors for fresh transfers, then essentially you’d need photographs of the donors, and then your clinic would be able to offer the facial matching service to patients, which is beneficial because it helps you to find the donor with the greatest facial resemblance to the recipient.

Is there a list of clinics that you work with?

Yes, because of the slightly complicated world that we live in, we can’t be promoting certain clinics over other clinics. I can say that we work with over a hundred clinics including some of the really big ones. What I’m going to do in this case, you can get my contact details and if you could tell me the whereabouts you’re looking for. If you tell me the country f. e. that you’re in, I can tell you the clinics that we work with in that country.

Do you know any clinics in Spain who have egg donors that are blue-eyed, blond, tall, thin, and sporty build? Where in Spain I can find most of these donors?

The short answer to this question is yes. There are clinics in Spain that have -eyed, blond, tall, thin, and sporty. Where in Spain, you’ll find most of these donors, there’s not one zone that has many of these donors and another zone that doesn’t. In general, one of the problems with donor availability tends to be for ethnic minorities here in Spain. I think that a donor you’ve described is not really going to be a problem. Most clinics should have donors that match those phenotypes.

Is this Fenomatch algorithm at an added cost, and if so, how much?

This again depends on the clinics. They have their own pricing structures. Sometimes it’s included within the package of IVF, other times, it’s at an added cost. It’s something you need to speak to the clinic about it because it’s often part of a much more complicated pricing structure that involves a great many other services.

I have a treatment protocol planned, and phenotype matching was not mentioned. Could I ask for your service?

Yes, it’s the short answer to this question. I want to be very clear about this because I know how stressful it can be when you’re partway through this process, it’s most likely that you’ve had some phenotype matching done but maybe not facial matching. I’m sure that those basic phenotypical traits have been done and to answer the second part, yes if you speak to your clinic and you ask your doctor, and you mentioned Fenomatch, they will be able to get in touch with us, and any clinic, anywhere in the world can have access to our platform within 24 hours, so yes.

Does a clinic need a baseline number of donors to allow the search to work properly? So Fenomatch is good for all sizes of clinics?

Essentially, Fenomatch has two functions. Number one is the set, and number two is the facial comparison. If you’re doing the search, the answer, of course, even if you have a small donor database, the search function still works. In terms of facial comparison bigger the donor database, the better. The last test that I did, it was going through 600 human faces, which is, of course, an enormous amount of data for the computer to process, and it’s still able to find facial resemblance, so to summarize because I got distracted answering that question, it works with any number of donors but the more donors there are, the more accurate the results we get. And to answer the second part of the question, yes, it’s true, it doesn’t depend on the number of donors that are in a data bank, and it doesn’t depend on the size of the clinic at all. Of course, the magic really happens when you have a large group of donors, but that’s independent of Fenomatch. You can find the one with the greatest facial resemblance that way.

Can I send you my picture and you can see where to find the best donor match?

I’m very sorry, but this is not actually possible because of the legislation here in Spain but also at a European level, the donor information is private, it’s sensitive information, and at Fenomatch, we don’t have access to that. My advice would be that you spend a little time on the Internet looking for two or three clinics that you like, you feel comfortable with, that you think is more or less in your price range. Then speak to them directly because you’re going to need to find some clinic you feel comfortable with, that would be my advice. I wish you the best of luck with your treatment.

What type of evaluation have you done on your product? Do you do comparative studies on facial features after birth?

We had our first Fenomatch babies, and I think this was probably sometime at the end of last year that we had those first babies that had been born with the facial matching performed by Fenomatch. There is a very practical problem, which is that the non-technical way of describing this problem is that all babies have kind of very similar faces with very chubby cheeks etc. The technical explanation here is that the facial features are not fully developed in a baby, so we’re going to have to wait a very long time to really see, to do this sort of test. However, I can talk a little bit about the evaluation that we have done, so in 2019 at the ESHRE conference in Vienna, we published some information about the evaluation, we did on the algorithm. So essentially, we compared the facial matching done by the algorithm with facial matching performed the traditional way, so that means a doctor or a medical team looking at faces and comparing, the results of the algorithm were very, very good compared to the human evaluation. Like I said, more or less two weeks ago, I did a test with 600 human faces where I asked the algorithm to identify two brothers that were in this data set, and it was able to identify the brothers accurately in a question of seconds.

Can you compare the similarity between two women and find one same donor for both?

If, for example, we have a lesbian couple that’s looking for a sperm donor, then we would have the egg from one of the women. On the other woman, we would perform the Fenomatch, so in that case, the donor assisted child will get the genetic mother’s DNA from the egg and the phenotype matched genetic material from the donor with the facial resemblance to the recipient’s partner. We can use a photograph of women to look for men, and we can use a photograph of men to look for women without any problems.

I know these donors have been tested of course od disease?

What you’re thinking about there is carrier screening, this is not something that Fenomatch works on directly, but it’s almost something that’s entirely universal, not just testing for diseases, but also doing carrier screening to see what genetic disorders that could be inherited via recessive genes. I think overall, the best thing to do in this case is to speak to your clinic and speak to your doctor.
IVF & fertility treatment with own eggs for women over 40 – what are your chances?
Exploring Male Fertility – all you need to know about semen analysis
IVF for women over 40 – options and insights
Creating Fertility Awareness: Navigating Your Journey with Holistic Insights and Medical Know-How
Choosing the right clinic for your treatment: One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make
How will this affect my future child? 40+ intended parents’ concerns (age, donor conception, single motherhood)
Joshua Rackstraw

Joshua Rackstraw

Joshua Rackstraw, (Former) Product Owner of Fenomatch, an algorithm that helps doctors find the donor with the greatest facial resemblance to each patient. A native Englishman, Joshua has been living and working in Spain for the last 10 years.
Event Moderator
Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is managing MyIVFAnswers.com and has been hosting IVFWEBINARS dedicated to patients struggling with infertility since 2020. She's highly motivated and believes that educating patients so that they can make informed decisions is essential in their IVF journey. In the past, she has been working as an International Patient Coordinator, where she was helping and directing patients on their right path. She also worked in the tourism industry, and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. In her free time, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things, or spending time outdoors.