Chilling Innovation: How Boreas Monitoring Is Rethinking Cryotank Management

The fertility world is cold. Really, really, cold.

Eggs, embryos, and sperm cells need to be stored in places that reach negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to maintain that temperature, fertility clinics store these samples in liquid nitrogen tanks.

Will Baird
Will Baird -Boreas Monitoring

Will Baird worked with these tanks every day as the Lab Technologist at Wilmington Reproductive Laboratories.

“Part of my day-to-day job in the lab was monitoring our liquid nitrogen tanks. And I remember being really skeptical about how we were doing that,” he told Hypepotamus.

He had a hunch that the standard way of measuring and monitoring systems — which typically relies on a literal yardstick — weren’t adequately reading what was happening inside each tank. Even with close monitoring, it can be difficult to determine if a tank is at risk of failing.

So after years as a fertility expert, he’s turning his attention to improving the technology that makes fertility clinics run.

Baird, alongside co-founders Chad Johnson and Bill Baird, launched Boreas Monitoring in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2018. The health diagnostic startup helps clinics with cryotank management through its real-time and weight-based solution. Boreas’ smart scale allows for clinics to remotely monitor the health of each tank to catch any tank abnormalities early.

Baird likens Boreas and its temperature monitoring solutions to a car’s fuel gauge.

“If you’re driving without one, you don’t know your car is out of fuel until you have to pull over to the side of the road,” he added. “That’s not how we should be operating.”

Boreas Monitoring has started to gain traction, with six clinics across the country currently using the startup’s system. The startup graduated from North Carolina’s RIoT Accelerator Program and took home the top prize at the Big Launch Challenge, a pitch competition hosted by The Launch Place (TLP). It was one of six recipients of a NC IDEA SEED grant in 2023.

Boreas Monitoring & Its Big Cryotank Market

Boreas Monitoring is building in a rather large market. The IVF (in vitro fertilization) market is growing year over year, with the market size estimated at $25.3 billion in 2023.

But it is also a highly emotional one, as millions of families have relied on liquid nitrogen tanks at fertility labs to start their families over the decades. There have been some high-profile tank failures over the years that ultimately destroyed frozen human embryos and eggs, which Baird said highlights the need for better monitoring solutions.

Working in the fertility space is also deeply personal for Baird. He grew up in and around his father’s fertility lab in Ohio, and he would later get involved in the industry himself by opening up Wilmington Reproductive Laboratories in 2014. He had his two little girls through IVF as well.

But it is not just the IVF and fertility world that can benefit from Boreas’ monitoring solutions. Liquid nitrogen tanks play an important role across the life sciences and even animal husbandry. Late last year, tank failure at a Swedish medical university destroyed decades worth of Leukemia research samples. The failure cost an estimated $37 million. And cryotanks are used for animal conservation efforts. Both industries can benefit from properly weighing liquid nitrogen tanks.

Baird also knows that he is working in an industry that has suddenly found itself in the spotlight, following Alabama’s Supreme Court ruling on IVF use earlier this year. While the case came about after human error – not tank failure – destroyed embryos in a fertility clinic, Baird said it just “highlights the importance” of what the Boreas team is building.

“It raises a heightened awareness of how these cells are stored and how they’re protected,” he added.