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The UK's First National Sperm Bank Has Closed

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Illustration by Ly Ngo
Less than two years after it launched, the UK's first national sperm bank will stop recruiting donors. Only seven men were taken on as donors since it was set up in October 2014.

The National Sperm Bank (NSB) was founded to address the UK's sperm shortage, particularly at NHS clinics, and planned to charge £300 per insemination – far less than the £950 cost of donor sperm from the London Sperm Bank, the UK's largest sperm bank, reported the BBC.

Donor sperm is used by couples and individuals hoping to become parents, for instance, if they are in a same-sex couple, experiencing fertility problems or want to have a child alone.

The cost of running the NSB, which was jointly run by the National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT) and Birmingham's Women's Fertility Centre, proved too high for it to be viable.

The NSB received a £77,000 grant from the government when it was first set up and the intention was for it to be financially self-reliant within a year.

However, it didn't generate income in its second year because the full process to becoming a donor takes up to 18 months, the BBC reported. Birmingham Women's Fertility Centre will soon release the NSB's first sperm donations to clinics across the UK.

People's access to safe sperm donation services won't be affected by the NSB's collapse, the Department of Health said.

Charles Lister, chair of the National Gamete Donation Trust, said the demise of the sperm bank shows that continuing investment is needed to successfully recruit sperm donors, adding that his charity didn't have enough resources.

The UK is currently facing a 'major' sperm shortage as demand from same-sex couples has grown. Treatment can be costly and most clinics are based in London and the south east of England, so many believe a national sperm bank is still needed.

"It doesn't have to be bricks and mortar, it could be a network," said Professor Allan Pacey, a spokesman for the British Fertility Society.

He added: "We need better coordination and this just highlights how expensive it's going to be," the BBC reported.

Clinics in Denmark and the US are major suppliers to UK clinics. In Denmark, in particular, sperm donation has been marketed to appeal to male vanity, giving many men a sense of pride, The Guardian reported.
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