This Woman Will Decide Which Babies Are Born

Walk me through your own decision to do this—to use Orchid’s technology on yourself.

I mean, I started the company because I wanted to test my own embryos.

Because of your mom, or because of who you are as a person?

Both. Reproduction is one of the most fundamental things in life. It’s like you die, taxes, and, you know, people have kids.

You always knew you wanted to have kids.

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

How old were you when you were like, “I should be able to sequence my embryos”?

I don’t think it was sequence my embryos specifically. I’ve always had an interest in genetics. I’ve always had an interest in fertility and reproductive tech.

Even as, like, a teenager?

I remember one of my applications for the Thiel Fellowship definitely had a version of Orchid on there.

That was, what, over a decade ago, and a lot of prospective parents still rely on the same genetic testing we used back then.

I would consider it negligent to use the old technology. Because you’re by definition missing hundreds of things that could have been detected. Parents who are not told that this new technology exists are being done a huge disservice and will probably be suing if their child ends up with a condition.

You think that’s a legitimate lawsuit?

Of course. If your doctor doesn’t tell you that there’s a way for you to screen for your child to not have a condition that would be either life-threatening or life-altering for them—I mean, it’s already happened. [Parents have been suing physicians for failing to perform genetic tests since the late 1980s.]

How much does an Orchid screening cost?

It’s $2,500 per embryo.

And presumably you’d be screening several embryos. What about for families that can’t afford that?

We have a philanthropic program, so people can apply to that, and we’re excited to accept as many cases as we can.

Your clientele, at the moment, must tend toward well-off optimizers—people who really fuss about numbers.

I guess you’re right. I mean, I don’t know.

Do you ever worry about that? Giving people, like, more things to worry about?

No, no, no. I think it’s the opposite. For the vast majority of our patients, it reduces worry.

There must be exceptions.

There are some people who, I agree, are kind of anxious. And I just don’t think they should do any genetic testing.

Oh yeah?

I mean, everyone’s different. It’s just that I want to expand the menu of choice. You get to choose your partner. You get to choose when and if you have kids. This is, like, this is your kid. Why would you censor information about that?

But this still makes a lot of people extremely uncomfortable. There’s a fear, so often, around anything that touches reproduction. Are we, I don’t know, afraid of playing God or something?

Every other time we examine something, we develop—we develop insulin, right? We’re like, “That’s great!” It’s not like you’re playing God there. But you actually are, right? You’re creating something that didn’t exist before.


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