Fertility Center Develops Multidisciplinary Approach


Jeff Ballinger

The Columbia University Fertility Center has created a unique bench-to-bedside approach that has improved patient care and sped up research developments. 

The key is putting researchers together in the same location as the clinicians who treat patients, says the center’s director, Zev Williams, MD, PhD, the Wendy D. Havens Associate Professor of Women’s Health and chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

At the center’s Columbus Circle location in New York City, a research lab is contiguous with the clinical space. The seamless approach allows a free flow of information between doctors treating patients and doctors in the lab developing solutions. A significant leadership gift from John and Wendy Havens has helped launch the program.

“When discussing translational medicine, we often speak of trying to bring the laboratory bench closer to the patient’s bedside. Here the lab is at the bedside,” says Dr. Williams. 

Patient satisfaction ratings have more than doubled since the center opened.

The comprehensive approach also benefits the center’s researchers who are developing new techniques to improve the patient experience and outcomes. Dr. Williams and his team have developed a small, handheld DNA sequencer that can test fetal tissue for genetic abnormalities. Once in use, the technology will provide same-day results that can reveal the cause of some miscarriages. Patients who have miscarried typically wait days or weeks for lab results that can cost thousands of dollars. 

Knowing what causes a miscarriage can help prevent future ones, and being able to quickly share results can ease patients’ peace of mind. Dr. Williams is preparing to submit data that validate the test to New York state, and the test could be in use by the end of 2021.

From that breakthrough sprung another one with implications beyond the center’s focus on fertility. Last year, the center’s researchers realized the same approaches they had developed for DNA sequencing could be modified and applied to identify the COVID virus in nasopharyngeal and saliva samples and issue results in less than an hour. The COVID test is under review by New York state and the Food and Drug Administration, and the University has licensed the technology to a commercial developer.


The Fertility Center can be reached at 646-756-8282 or online at: