Honors Gallery

Sandia Scientists Changing the Way Men Approach Fertility

Award: Impact Award

Year: 2020

Award Type: National

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)

For most men, infertility is a private issue. Now, thanks to a discreet home testing system based on technology from Sandia National Laboratories, it can stay that way.  

After a Sandia research team developed SpinDx™, a portable lab-on-a-disc diagnostic device with a range of potential applications, two of the platform’s lead inventors founded Sandstone Diagnostics Inc. in Livermore, California, to commercialize the technology.  

Sandstone’s first commercial application is the Trak® Male Fertility Testing System, which is based on the SpinDx technology it licensed in 2012. Trak offers a new fertility approach by enabling men to measure, track and try to improve their sperm count at home to boost a couple’s chances of conception.  

More than 3,500 units have been sold with very little marketing. Sandstone’s educational website on male reproductive health has received more than 300,000 unique monthly views. More than 20,000 men have completed Trak’s fertility risk assessment tool. This large data set has helped strengthen the link between male fertility status and men’s overall health, and has been scientifically presented to the American Urological Association. 

Most fertility products and treatments focus on the female partner, despite men contributing to up to half of infertility cases.

Research suggests the average sperm count has plummeted by more than 50% since the 1970s. Most fertility products and treatments focus on the female partner, despite men contributing to up to half of infertility cases. Gold standard laboratory semen analysis is awkward, embarrassing and often inaccessible for men. On average, men are not even tested until a couple has been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for 18 months. 

Trak is a private, discreet and complete home testing system that is as accurate as the lab and does not require a prescription. It is not only a testing device, but an entire system that includes educational content to help men change their health habits and lifestyle to improve their reproductive success. 

Originally developed for biodefense applications with funding from a Laboratory Directed Research and Development project and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), SpinDx has the potential for both medical and non-medical applications ranging from detection of markers of infectious diseases to food and water safety testing. 

The hand-held, battery-powered system uses 4-inch diameter plastic DVD-like discs. The user places a small test sample (of blood or semen, for example) in the disc, and a small motor spins it. The centrifugal forces created by spinning separate the components of the sample for quick analysis. 

Sandstone continues to refine and develop the technology, which it now calls CentriFluidics™. The company has applied its technology to additional diagnostic areas, including infectious disease. Its second product, the Torq™ zero delay centrifuge system, enables immediate blood plasma stabilization at the point of collection. 

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