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Doctor of the Month: Barry Behr, Ph.D., H.C.L.D.


Barry Behr, Ph.D., H.C.L.D.
Director, In Vitro Fertilization/Assisted Reproduction Laboratories Division of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics
Co-Director, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) Laboratory, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics,
Stanford Fertility & Reproductive Medical Center, Stanford, CA

Consulting Lab Director, La Jolla IVF, La Jolla, CA and Conceptions Reproductive Associates, Littleton, CO

May 2010

An embryologist who understands the necessity of "picking the baby maker out of the cohort.”

Dr. Barry Behr is at the forefront of clinical and scientific advances in reproduction. He's an embryologist – a scientist – who at Sanford University Medical Center is responsible for running an IVF/assisted reproduction service laboratory and hormone and andrology laboratories, as well as performing clinical research.

One of his many significant contributions to assisted reproductive technology includes developing a culture medium for embryo development to the blastocyst stage (day-five embryo). For his work, Dr. Behr has been chosen as FertilityAuthority’s Doctor of the Month.

Focus on Embryo Quality

Behr has worked in the area of human IVF for more than 20 years. He worked in the first private IVF clinic in the U.S. in Reno, Nevada. (Prior to the mid-1980s, IVF clinics were in hospitals).

The first time he saw a human embryo, “a light bulb went off,” Behr says. This led him further down the embryology path and he received his Ph.D. in biology with an emphasis on reproductive technology.

Behr's research is driven by his desire to “understand and devise systems that would improve the experience for IVF patients.” Often, his focus is on the selection of the best embryos for implantation. According to Behr, blastocyst (Day 5 embryo) implantation rates are two times that of Day 3 embryos.

Trophectoderm Advocate

With an interest in "testing and developing things that have practical significance for patients,” Behr has furthered the application and rollout of trophectoderm biopsy on frozen embryos at blastocyst stage from a previous IVF cycle.

Currently, the most common technique for embryo biopsy is PGS/PGD using a Day 3 embryo, which allows you to choose the best embryo for implantation. Tophectoderm biopsy has a number of benefits including higher pregnancy and implantation rates. Behr says patients seek out his practice to do this procedure.

According to Behr, trophectoderm has another practical application. In 2009, an IVF center closed after it was determined that frozen embryos were mislabeled. Those embryos are being shipped to his lab where trophectoderm biopsy allows them to test embryos to ensure parentage. Otherwise the embryos would likely be thrown away. This will allow some patients to do another IVF cycle, an opportunity they might not otherwise have had.

“There has been a lot of development in the field and in the lab in 10 years,” Behr says. “Vitrification [a specialized “fast-freezing” technique] still has issues to be ironed out related to frozen embryos.” His program is “just beginning to offer vitrification for blastocysts,” in addition to eggs. “We are obliged to ensure minimum level of competency of all staff,” he says.

In Suit or Scrubs, Putting Patients First

So what does his day look like? With all his other responsibilities – administrative, writing, lecturing, overseeing the IVF program – about 20 percent of Behr's time is spent in the lab, handling the more technically challenging procedures -- PGD cycles, biopsies and trophectoderm biopsies -- in addition to training to ensure competency and innovation in the lab.

Says Behr, “My day is more of a suit day than a scrub day. I’m not just a lab scientist anymore.”

FertilityAuthority applauds Dr. Behr. Whether in suit or scrubs, he has fertility patients’ well being and success driving his work.

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