Paxton Maeder-York is a proud member of the MBA class of 2019, Section G.  He deferred between his RC and EC years to complete an additional master’s degree in Computational Science. Having studied Biomedical Engineering as an undergraduate and worked as a Product Manager at Auris Health building surgical robotics to treat lung cancer, the intersection of medicine and technology was a deep interest of his prior to HBS. He is now the Founder and CEO of Alife Health, which uses machine learning to help assess the healthiest embryo to transfer during IVF.

Alife Health was founded to help people have healthier children. Having started the company during my EC year, I decided to enter the company into the New Venture Competition and to my surprise, took home the grand prize. Since then I have gone on to raise a pre-seed round, make four exceptional hires, and sign our first two clinical partners. Beginning with using machine learning to help select the healthiest embryo to transfer during IVF, the company hopes to eventually build a suite of tools to help fertility specialists deliver the best possible care to patients.

So how did this company come about? Coming to Harvard to pursue an MBA offered me the exciting opportunity to re-engage with the scientifically rich university ecosystem and learn new skills.  I matriculated a year before the new MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences was offered, so I decided to apply independently to a one-year master's program in Computational Science and Engineering (CSE).  I deferred my EC year to attend the program at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

The summer before my CSE master’s program started, I participated in the Rock Summer Fellowship, where I explored the idea of using AI to detect early stage lung cancer nodules from CT scans. As I looked at the business opportunity for commercializing such a platform, the capital efficiency of pure software products became clear and I began looking for new opportunities within this area.  Over the following two semesters in the CSE program, I learned what was possible with this new branch of computer science, particularly the power of convolutional neural networks.  It was through this curriculum that I fell in love with data science and learned about the challenges of the embryo selection process. It was immediately apparent how large the opportunity to help people with infertility was, as well as the potential commercial viability of this technology.

Last fall, I made the decision to start a company that focused on the embryo selection problem, which I then pursued full time after graduation. HBS provided me incredible support as I worked on getting Alife Health off the ground.  Professor Ariel Stern sponsored me to do an independent research project on the business model during the fall of my EC year, and Professor Deborah Spar became a fantastic early advisor and connection within the industry. This support culminated in all the thoughtful feedback I received from the judges of the New Venture Competition and the flood of alumni interest that came from winning the grand prize. Although it was odd to compete and present remotely during the early weeks of COVID-19, this experience prepared me well to operate the company as a completely remote organization.

Alife Health was created and critically shaped under the direction of mentors across the Harvard community.  Their support has helped propel the business from an idea to reality with enough velocity to create an early-stage company that is based in Silicon Valley.  We have a long way to go as a team and as a business, but the access afforded to me as an alum of the Harvard Business School is unparalleled. I continue to be grateful for all the opportunities provided to me by Harvard, and I look forward to paying it forward to future generations of students and graduates.