University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


He invented a home sperm test when he was a PhD student

Innovation — Human biologist Emil Andersen got an idea about how to cheaply measure the sperm quality of men who struggle with fertility. Now he has created an international business.

In Woody Allen’s 1972 comedy ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask’, the director himself plays a sperm cell that is competing with a lot of other white-clad sperm cell men to get to their destination first: The woman’s egg. In the meantime, they are being closely monitored by technicians controlling the process from a control room.

Only thanks to the strenuous efforts of all concerned is the woman impregnated in the film. But in reality it is far less fun if a couple has problems conceiving.

It can be due to reduced fertility in the man, and normally it costs a lot of money to measure a man’s fertility. But seven years ago, Emil Andersen got an idea on how to measure it in a cheaper and simpler way. And it is even possible to take the measurement at home.

This turned into a sperm test kit and they have now sold 40,000 of them.

The art of making an inexpensive digital microscope

He first came up with the idea in the spring of 2015, while he was finishing his master’s degree programme in human biology. He started work on it the following year as a PhD student at the Center for Metabolic Research.

His own PhD is in the field of molecular biology and focuses on how the environment can affect sperm cells. One day Emil Andersen came across an article in the journal Nature that ended up changing his career.

»The article was about a research group that had developed an inexpensive 3D-printed digital microscope to detect the parasite in our blood that gives us malaria. It was a fairly simple system, and while reading the article, I got the idea that you could make a similar microscope to test for sperm quality,« says Andersen.

»A digital microscope does not need large and expensive lenses for magnification. But can be made much cheaper using components from the smartphone industry. But they can do the same thing,« he says.

Emil Andersen decided to develop his own digital microscope. And he began to purchase components, even though it also meant that his own PhD was stretched out over the course of seven years, from 2016 to 2023.

He did, however, have the full support of his supervisor.

»I had a very talented supervisor on my PhD, and he supported me all the way through the process. He believed in both things at once. I also had a fantastic network at the University of Copenhagen, so I did fine. This even though it was as if I had two jobs at once,« says Emil Andersen.

During the course of 2017, the idea of producing a sperm test kit with a built-in digital microscope began to develop when he met some of the people with whom he later set up a business.

A name was given to it, ExSeed Health, for a sperm test kit with a built-in digital microscope. One set contains two tests and can answer whether your sperm cells are sufficiently healthy to be able to fertilize an egg with a relatively high probability.


The company now has 15 employees. Three of them are employed in production, seven work in product development, with five in business development.

ExSeed Health is approved as a medical device in Europe. The first sperm test kits came on to the UK market in 2020, then in Germany, and now the company is working on getting the product approved in the US.

The kit costs DKK 699 in Denmark, and it can be purchased online via the company’s website.


The equipment consists of a small box that enlarges a sperm sample between two slides which is video recorded for five seconds by a mobile phone.

The sample is then sent to ExSeed Health, where the video is analysed using AI.

This then gives the man an answer: How many sperm cells he has, how fast they swim, and how eager they are to fertilize an egg. This is how you measure male fertility.

Counteracts the defeat, every month, of no pregnancy

According to Emil Andersen it is far from all couples that experience the process of getting pregnant as nice or entertaining.

»I myself am the father of two boys. And I have friends who have had fertility problems. So I know how it can affect a relationship if you have to go through the same painful defeat every single month when a couple can’t manage to get pregnant,« he says.

Some of the users of ExSeed’s sperm test kit have told him how it gave them a sense of clarification and a relief from the difficult process of having children.

For some men, the test was the motivation to change lifestyle, so that their fertility could improve over time.

Some people, with the help of the sperm test kit, have found out that they suffer from low fertility, and have then made a stronger push to get fertility treatment instead of going for a long time without doing anything.

Finally, there is one group of men who find out that their sperm cells are just fine. And according to Emil Andersen, the sperm test kit helps them also. Because it gives them the confidence and knowledge that all is well.