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Alum's At-Home Test Would Remove Doubt About Cause of Miscarriage

Rebecca Russo-Schlossberg graduated from the M.S. in Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship program in May.

Rebecca Russo-Schlossberg, a recent graduate of the M.S. in Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship, was enticed to the Katz School by its emphasis on the business of biotechnology. At this year’s Symposium on Science, Technology and Health, she showcased her ideas on a go-to-market strategy for a startup that is banking its future on software for the medical imaging market.

Russo-Schlossberg identified four unique sales channels and built a model to forecast the finances for MedImageMetric, a Cornell University spinoff that develops and commercializes software for measuring organs and tissues from medical images.

“Working for an early-stage startup has shown me the greatness of pursuing your passion to solve a problem,” she said. “I truly appreciate the time and dedication my supervisors Dr. Gary Dorfman and Dr. Kelly Gillen gave me, and I am so happy to have learned from and fostered great relationships with them.”

From that work, Russo-Schlossberg caught the entrepreneurial bug herself. She’s developing an at-home miscarriage test kit for her own startup Genosa Diagnostics. “It’s for individuals who have a miscarriage at home and would like to know if it was due to a genetic or chromosomal abnormality in the fetus,” she said.

More than half of miscarriages are the result of chromosomal abnormalities in the fertilized egg, which can cause developmental problems that result in an unviable fetus. Russo-Schlossberg's test would be important because individuals who miscarry in their first trimester typically do so at home and thus don’t have the opportunity to genetically test the fetal tissue to determine a cause.

In some cases, doctors will recommend women submit to an invasive procedure called a D&C, or dilation & curettage, in which all fetal tissue is removed from the uterus and available for genetic testing. “Most of the time, there’s no need for a D&C if you are healthy and there is a complete miscarriage,” she said.

Symptoms of a miscarriage include bleeding, cramping or experiencing very few pregnancy symptoms such as nausea or vomiting. A sudden dip in pregnancy symptoms earlier than nine or 10 weeks of pregnancy can also indicate a miscarriage. Most early pregnancy losses occur within the first 12 weeks. Although the risk drops with each passing week, a miscarriage can occur anytime until the 20-week mark. About 20 percent of all pregnancies end in such an early loss.

Russo-Schlossberg said research has shown that individuals who don’t find a reason for why they miscarried experience grief, self-blame and depression. “They may think they did something wrong, ate something they shouldn’t have or lifted something that was too heavy and, as a result, they blame themselves,” she said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about miscarriage that cause women to suffer unnecessarily.”

She has drawn inspiration from Lorraine Marchand, an industry professor in the Katz School biotechnology program, author of the book The Innovation Mindset and a mentor throughout the development of her startup. “I really love Lorraine. She's been fantastic,” said Russo-Schlossberg. “All the professors at the Katz School are really great. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and are interesting people themselves. I learned a lot.”

She plans to participate in a project developed by Marchand in which she’ll be one of six women immersing themselves in The Innovation Mindset’s eight laws of innovation, which are meant to enable the commercial success of women entrepreneurs in STEM. By July, she plans to pitch her at-home miscarriage test to investors.

“It's nice to have a great idea, but capital and mentorship will be crucial to following through,” she said. “For six to 10 months, my goal is to put all my efforts into Genosa and see where it goes from there.”