By: 31 October 2023
Researcher in Focus Q&A with Marta Jansa Perez

Marta Jansa Perez is the Director of Embryology at Bridge Clinic, a fertility care centre based in London. With her extensive experience in clinical embryology, service development and management, research, and lecturing, Marta delivers compassionate care to every patient.

Marta holds an impressive academic background, including:

  • BSc in Biology
  • MSc in Genetics and Microbiology
  • PhD in Molecular Genetics
  • HCPC Registration as Clinical Embryologist
  • Diploma in Clinical Embryology

Marta’s achievements include receiving the 2011 Claire Gillott Memorial Prize (ACE) for her leadership role as consultant embryologist at King’s College Hospital Assisted Conception Unit and the 2019 Imperial College NHS Trust ‘Make a Difference Award’ for service provision at the Wolfson Fertility Centre.

Marta is the Treasurer for the British Fertility Society, member of the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS) and the UK scientist representative for the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). She is a member of the HFEA Licensed Centres Panel and, as such, works with the regulator on emerging issues in the sector.

Marta is committed to providing the highest level of care and support to patients on their fertility journey. Her compassionate approach helps patients feel comfortable and confident in their treatment.

Obs: What drove you to choose a career in embryology?

MJP: Whilst completing my postdoctoral research on zebrafish embryo development in New Zealand, I realised that I wanted to move to healthcare, where I could apply my scientific knowledge to improve the lives of others. The opportunity came up to start an IVF centre in Hamilton, New Zealand and, after training in Auckland, we started providing care to patients with excellent results. I have never looked back, as I feel that clinical embryology is the best job in the world. I get to combine science, patient care, teamwork, research, teaching and supervising as well as working with a great multidisciplinary team where everyone puts the patients and their outcomes at the core of what we do.

Obs: Are you currently involved with any research? If so, could you tell us more about it?

MJP: Bridge Clinic London is a new clinic, so we do not have a lot of data to analyse yet. We have, however, submitted an abstract on a case report for the national fertility conference (Fertility 2024). We are also participating in a social research project with Manuela Perrotta’s group at Queen Mary’s University London in collaboration with Progress Educational Trust as well as considering starting a research project with Imperial College London, where I am an honorary senior lecturer.

We are also planning to link with researchers in Cambridge doing embryo research in view of asking patients who wish to donate their embryos to research to consider these projects. In the future, we will participate in randomised controlled trials to investigate the value of new techniques or treatments to fertility patients.

Obs: What could your findings mean to the reproductive health industry and the patient experience?

MJP: The main focus of research in this field is to understand better the process of reproduction, from fertilisation to embryo development and implantation, as there are still details that we do not understand. More knowledge in this area might allow us to potentially identify which embryo/s if any are capable of leading to a viable pregnancy and therefore increase patients’ chances of success.

Equally, assessing emerging technologies in the field for their effectiveness, as well as understanding what is important for patients, can only lead to better patient care and outcomes.

Obs: Could you tell us more about the latest advances in assisted reproduction technology?

MJP: In this field, new technologies are developing all the time. The challenge for us professionals is to be able to assess their safety and effectiveness. Often patients are offered these at an added cost, and I feel it is important to have data on these before asking patients to pay extra.

In my view, the latest advance in terms of impact has been time-lapse incubators, which are a great tool for embryo culture and assessment in the laboratory. Undisrupted culture conditions allow us to regularly assess embryo development.

At the moment there is a lot of discussion around AI and how it might be able to choose embryos better than an experienced clinical embryologist. I am hopeful that in the future this might be proven with effective research in the form of randomised controlled trials.

Obs: What’s next with emerging technologies and how does the future look in embryology and fertility treatments?

MJP: There are many emerging developments happening with AI, as I said earlier, but also in robotics, which is an exciting field of development. If we managed to design robots that can do Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injections (ICSI), freezing and thawing embryos and other lab techniques more effectively and consistently than clinical embryologists, it would be great.

From what I have seen so far, ICSI robots are being developed and I am looking forward to seeing them improved, tested and eventually implemented in the lab with high fertilisation rates, good embryo development and pregnancy rates. I think we are a few years away from clinical implementation, though. There are also automated embryo freezing machines available in the market, but I am still not convinced about their effectiveness and safety compared to a clinical embryologist.

Obs: What’s the best part of your job?

MJP: I enjoy it all but mostly what is in direct relation to patient care, so embryology work in the lab and explaining the process and the technologies to patients, so that they understand it as well as possible in order to make informed decisions along the way. I also enjoy working in developing pathways and new services to suit the needs of the patients as well as leading an outstanding multidisciplinary team of professionals who all share the same goals. At a national level, being able to contribute to policy-making and professional guidance is a privilege as it also improves patient care on a wider scale.

Obs: … and the worst?

MJP: Sometimes the paperwork in relation to the current regulations can be time-consuming and challenging for both patients and staff! Luckily, we have great computer systems and online platforms that allow us to be completely paperless.

Obs: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

MJP: All the patients that I have cared for, successful or not. I do remember specific, particularly challenging cases where we have managed to help the patients very much against the odds and those have been special. For me, being able to use my knowledge and skills to change the lives of others, for the better is a professional privilege that humbles me every day.

Obs: Are you planning to attend any medical conferences or events over the next year?

MJP: Yes, Fertility 2024 in Edinburgh in January, which is the national conference of the three professional fertility societies in the UK. As the Treasurer of BFS, I am part of the organising committee and the programme for 2024 is looking extremely exciting and interesting for all professionals involved in the field.

Obs: If you didn’t work in healthcare, what would you be?

MJP: I think perhaps I would pursue something around languages and communication and/ or writing, as that is something I already like as part of my own role. I am fluent in four languages – English, French, Spanish and Catalan – and enjoy communicating to break down barriers and open doors with people.

Obs: What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

MJP: Enjoy every minute of it and don’t worry that much about what people will think.

Obs: If you were Health Minister for the day, what changes would you implement?

MJP: I would make the same quality of education and healthcare available to all.

Obs: How do you think the future looks within the field of fertility treatments and what are your predictions for 2024 and the next decade?

MJP: I am hoping that there will be more public funding available across the UK, in line with the NICE guidelines and that all patients will have access to the recommended 3 cycles of treatment. Making fertility treatment more accessible to all those who need it needs to be a priority. In the next decade, I would like to see more evidence-based treatments, transparent pricing and modern technologies that make treatments more cost-effective along with increasing life birth rates for patients