crispr embryoFertility clinics in the United States are seeing a significant increase in interest from investment firms, STAT News reports. In an article published today, journalists from STAT assert that private equity firms and venture capitalists are putting their money behind building national chains of fertility clinics across the country.

Traditionally, fertility clinics are standalone business enterprises. The push from investors, however, has led to an increased drive to develop a network of connected clinics. Some fertility experts support this move, saying that the connections will lead to improved communication and sharing of best practices and technology. Others are more reserved; in particular, some physicians have raised concerns about patients being pushed towards treatments and services that they don’t need so to improve profits.

STAT estimates that there are currently roughly 500 fertility clinics in the USA. With improvements in our understanding of reproduction, the number and range of tests being offered by these clinics has been growing rapidly. Genomic testing is no exception, such as Fertilome, with which patients can pay $950 for a prediction of their risk of fertility problems later in life.

Most notably, many new tests and services aimed at young women who are not yet thinking about conception are starting to appear, along with the corresponding advertising campaigns. Egg freezing, a technique that was originally developed for women about to undergo cancer treatment that would make them infertile, is becoming particularly popular. Despite its origins, the practice is gradually becoming focused on healthy women who want to delay motherhood until they are older, but who want to have access to the healthiest eggs possible. Some companies, such as Google and Facebook, have even started offering the service to their employees.

It is these tests that have caused the most contention within the community. Some industry experts fear that by targeting young women before they start to consider a family, many patients will end up paying for expensive services (such as egg freezing, which is typically over $10,000 per cycle) that they ultimately do not need. As there is no way of accurately predicting who is most in need of these services without further testing, there has been no resolution to this problem.

Despite the ethical debate, however, investors are backing the clinics. For example, the self-styled first egg freezing-focused clinic in the USA, Extend Fertility in New York City, was launched with financial support from private equity firm North Peak Capital.

Currently, there is no clear evidence on how the increase investments are affecting patient costs.