Reliable cryo shipping – how to choose an IVF courier?

Peter Hura
Head of IVF Courier Service

Donor Eggs, Egg Freezing, IVF Abroad

Reliable cryo shipping - how to choose IVF courier?
From this video you will find out:
  • What factors should individuals consider when choosing a company for cryo-shipping services?
  • What measures are taken to ensure the safety during air shipments?
  • What are the challenges patients face when needing to transport genetic material for IVF treatment abroad?

IVF Cryoshipping worldwide

Watch the webinar video above to learn about methods of cryo shipping for IVF samples. If you are considering IVF treatment at a fertility clinic abroad, for example in Europe or Canada, you may be in a situation where you will need to have your genetic material (eggs, sperm or embryo) safely transported from your local clinic to your destination clinic. Traditional courier service will not be of use here. You would need reliable cryo shipping services which will ensure safe delivery and no X-ray checks at airports.

Big thank you for all the participants who took part in our sixth free webinar on Tuesday 30th January 2018. Here’s the complete transcript of the questions and answers that came up during the webinar.

IVF Cryoshipping couriers

The demand for worldwide fertility cryo-transportation is growing steadily each year. With individual fertility laws differing from country to country and travel becoming more accessible, individuals are afforded more freedom when it comes to deciding where to go for treatment. Whilst the widening choice is a great benefit for patients, just how safe is cryo-shipping and what exactly is the process?

In this webinar, Mr Peter Hura, head of the logistics department at First Egg Bank, the biggest European centre of certified oocyte (egg) and sperm samples, explains the logistics, equipment and documentation required for the successful transportation of gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos.

Cryo-shipping is a complex solution for IVF but is an achievable service which is becoming more readily used. With laws pertaining to fertility treatments varying worldwide, many clients find themselves seeking IVF in a country which supports their specific needs, for instance, intended parents who ship oocytes or embryos for use in overseas surrogacy programs.

Two main shipping methods are used for IVF cryo-transportation; road and air.

Transportation by road can be undertaken if the distance is at or below 1,500km. When cryo-shipping by road, the oocytes or embryos are transported in a specialised container that is completely filled with liquid nitrogen; this ensures an absolute, stable temperature of -196 degrees centigrade. Mr Hura advises that even just a slight increase in temperature can pose a risk to the delicate cell matter. Whilst road shipments are simpler in terms of scheduling, logistics and safety, air transportation is also a viable option.

The biggest concerns, when undergoing an air shipment, are exposure to radiation and the worry of the container being opened.

First Egg Bank, therefore, ensures that every consignment has a dedicated escort in charge of the sample/s right from the point of collection, all the way through to delivery. Supervisors are fully trained to assess the transport conditions and guarantee the containers are not handled by a third party. Cell shipments must never be x-rayed as the radiation from this procedure may result in the degeneration of gametes and embryos, which could provoke DNA changes and genetic mutations. The escorts are on hand to protect and safeguard the oocytes and embryos from such situations occurring and any subsequent potential damage.

Air shipments are also more complex due to the fact that it is impossible to store the gametes in liquid nitrogen, for the journey.

Mr Hura explains how a specialised container is therefore used for any cryo-transportation shipments by air. The container complies with all legal and safety requirements by allowing the liquid nitrogen to be fully absorbed into a porous material, for the duration of the transportation. Each specialised container has a temperature marker and always flies directly onboard, with the escort, as hand luggage. It’s interesting to note that for the purposes of shipping, samples of IVF do not have any commercial value as they are used for treatment. Each type of gamete and/or embryo also has its own identification code.

Alongside IVF clinics, agencies and IVF laboratories, many private and individual patients also use cryo-transportation services; often people who do not have the necessary contacts or legal expertise in organising this type of shipment. First Egg Bank makes all arrangements and liaise directly with clinic representatives and embryologists, air security teams and customs clearance. It is their role to provide and present all documentation and permits at both the points of export and import, adhering to all legal requirements and keeping in line with the EU tissues and cells directive; the main document, in European areas, which has created the benchmark in establishing rules and regulations for the movement of biological matter.

Mr Hura stresses that finding a company which has in-depth knowledge regarding cryo-shipping is a must; moving of such a highly sensitive cargo can be a complicated process involving additional permits and documentation. Permission from airlines is also not always straightforward or easy to confirm, and the safety of the fragile cells is paramount.

First Egg Bank moves an average of 200 shipments, per year, to more than 25 countries worldwide, including some areas of America and Asia, alongside Europe. They also boast a 100% successful delivery rate.

The advances in medical science and technology are forever increasing and Mr Hura believes it is an honour to be part of a process that enables new lives to be created and helps make dreams come true.

- Questions and Answers

Is there a pick-up point in the Netherlands?

We can ship any biological IVF material to the Netherlands as it is a part of the European Union and is covered by European directives. So, there is no problem to pick up IVF samples in the Netherlands.

Can we send oocytes from Belgium to Argentina?

Yes, sure. There are no problems, but the clinic in Argentina has to receive permission from the local Ministry of Health to receive oocytes from Europe.

We are from Israel. We want to ask about the new law in the Czech Republic that says it’s not allowed to fly embryos outside the European Union.

The Czech Republic is part of the European Union and they follow EU tissue directives. It is possible to deliver to a country located outside the European Union. There could be some additional local permits which you are required to get in advance to transport some material outside the Republic or the European Union, but this is not forbidden. The European tissue directive says that, as long as you have provided all requested documents, it is possible to ship outside the EU and the Czech Republic.

What are the prices?

The prices of IVF shipping could be different because they depend on the cost of the air ticket and on the dates of delivery; if you call me and say that you need to ship your material tomorrow, of course, it will be very expensive: other dates would be cheaper. The IVF courier’s cost is on a case-by-case basis.

Can you work with Canadian clients?

Yes. We have a lot of experience in IVF shipping and transporting biological material to Canada from Europe and from other countries.

Can we go to Belgium in order to pick our order?

You don’t have to come to Belgium. You can place your order online on our website, just follow the links and our coordinator will contact you. It is possible to send all the necessary information by email, as well as to send and receive any documents required for the process.

Would you please name the clinics in Toronto that you are working with?

We have a lot of experience transporting biological IVF material to New Life, in Toronto.

Is it correct that we need FDA agreement to be able to send embryos to the USA? If so, how can the clinic match those requirements? Is there a list?

Actually, the clinic in the USA where are you going to get your treatment has to inform the FDA that they are going to receive some materials. They have to send the blood of the patient to the FDA and they will check that the material doesn’t have any infection. After that, they are sent a resolution that it will be possible for you to ship it to your side.

Are the parcels insured? Do you have insurance during the transport process?

We can insure your embryos and we will provide all the necessary information on request. We actually do this for a lot of our patients.

Do you provide the receiving laboratory with temperature logs and data?

Of course, we can provide an infographic on the temperature during the whole delivery process.

You said that you have a 100% success rate. In case of failure, do you give a refund or offer a new IVF shipping service?

We actually have an agreement/consent form where we describe how this process works, but from our experience, we haven’t had any case where we needed to transport again.

How far can the parcel go? Is there a maximum distance? What is the longest safe flight for the embryos?

The containers are valid for transportation with the optimal temperature for the survival of samples for ten days, but usually to deliver from Europe to the USA takes about one or two days, no more.

I would like to ship sperm from Denmark to India. Is there any safe shipping in February of March?

You can contact us by email and we will respond to your request, with all information regarding your case.

What cars or trucks do you use for road transport.

We actually use our own cars, as well as some other very quick transportation according to the request of the supervisor.

How many embryos can you ship at once?

Usually, the containers can transport 35 embryos but we can prepare a shipment of as many as you need if this helps solve your problem.

Is there any live GPS tracking available?

Yes, we have a system where you can see how the shipment is progressing from the start point to the final destination. This GPS tracking system is charged extra.

Can I contact the courier during transportation? Is this tracked? Does a person usually supervise a container?

Yes, as I already mentioned, materials are under the constant care of a supervisor. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to contact him en route; he may be, for example, on board a plane. But you can always contact our company and we can inform you about each step of the delivery.

Do we pay in advance or after getting the parcel?

We prepare the invoice, but it is possible to pay one part in advance and one part on delivery.

Is it safe to ship in New Delhi, India?

There are no problems to ship to India. It takes about ten hours, as much as to the USA. We can also organise shipment from India.

Are shipments from Spain to the USA easy? What about Spain to Mexico?

There are some requirements regarding Mexico because the labs or clinics there have to receive permission from the local Ministry of Health, but it’s quite easy to ship to the USA from Spain, in which case we can provide all the necessary documents for you to get permission from the FDA.

Can you help communicate with the clinic? I don’t know which documents are required?

Of course, we always help. We always provide communication with both of the clinics. We always contact them and monitor the process, and help prepare all the requested documents.

Can I send the egg donation from Cryos [International Sperm & Egg Bank] together with sperm from Denmark?

They have to be transported in separate tanks, but it is possible to send them together on the same day in one shipment; one shipment but with two separate containers.

Can you please clarify the price for separate shipments at the same time?

We would have to check this. You can contact us directly and we will prepare a quote according to your case. It depends on how we will organize shipment, how we will contact you to get permission to transfer, and on how fast you need to receive it in the lab of the clinic where you are going to get treatment.

Are there any limitations on how long the embryos have been stored before they are shipped?

There is no limit on embryo storage.

If a customer wants to transfer two samples in one shipment, do we need two sets of documents or only one set of documents?

You have to prepare the transfer, where you can mention the type of material, how many samples there are and how long they were stored. The documentation is standard.

Can transportation have an impact on quality?

No. There is no impact on quality. But this may depend on how the material was stored in the clinic. We also always provide you a container with all the requirements for the survival of the material.

Do you have Spanish or French-speaking assistants on the phone?

Yes, we have Spanish and French speakers. We also have English, German, Russian and Mandarin Chinese speakers who will be glad to provide information in a language suitable for you.
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Peter Hura

Peter Hura

Peter Hura is Head of the logistics department at First Egg Bank. Smart, multitasking, sociable, Peter is an experienced IVF courier and logistics specialist. He is in charge of worldwide cryoshipments (frozen donor eggs, sperm, embryos) for intended parents or on demand for private fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies. His responsibilities are: complex delivery organisation; arranging issues between clinic representatives, where cells are stored, Air Security and Customs clearance. He has performed more than 100 cryoshipments during only a year. The list of countries where deliveries were performed includes the UK, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Israel, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and the USA. All patients have a guarantee that their order will be safely delivered to the destination point.