Depending on what is carried and how much they can pay, the patient or patients involved will choose hand-carried service, a commercial carrier such as DHL or FedEx, or something in between, such as such as the combination of commercial flights and local couriers that Loewen has relied on during the pandemic. The cost of shipping my eggs with FlyVet Europa was 1,300 euros, or about $1,400 at the time. That includes the one-way fare for Paolo and the egg suitcase, and a few incidentals. (When I told Monaco how many eggs are traveling, he quipped, “Uno wardro di calcio!” – a football team.)
CryoStork, Cryoport’s division for the reproductive sector, offers all three levels of service — commercial carriers for an easily replaceable (in other words), a mid-tier service that uses air and local carriers, and door-to-door carry-on service — from a few hundred dollars to $7,000 or $8,000 for an international carry-on.
Ultimately, the pandemic boosted Loewen’s business. Today, he and a team of eight colleagues, half staff and half work on a shipment-by-ship basis, handle between 30 and 40 IVF-related shipments per month. Similarly, when the war in Ukraine began, Loewen and other colleagues received frantic requests from customers who wanted to move their biomaterials out of the capital, Kiev, where most of the world’s most important businesses are located. most of the country’s IVF clinics and surrogacy agencies, and business moved to nearby Georgia. But come September, Loewen is planning to once again supply biomaterials to Ukraine. “People want children — conflict or not,” he said.
To become a tissue courier, and how does one enter the field? Everyone I spoke to said that to be successful, you had to love to travel, have a calm personality (in case, as happened with Loewen, you were once surrounded by armed Belarusian soldiers. airport and accused of trafficking in human organs), and adept at problem-solving.
Loewen is looking for people with travel experience who can navigate new cities and not be bothered by flight cancellations or a fussy customs official. Cryoport’s Mark Sawicki has several former pilots now working in transportation; security that allows them to move through airports more easily than civilians.
Nicole Dorman, 43, has always loved children; she joked that her current job as a courier is “babysitting”. She has three children, ages 14 to 22, who served as teacher assistants and school crossing guards, after four years in the US Army. When she’s home for a week or two at a time with her kids between gigs, she also does deliveries for DoorDash in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Dorman started by shipping stem cells for a courier service based in Frankfurt. While looking for a job in November 2020, she emailed half a dozen IVF courier companies and got a response from Loewen within 15 minutes. She has worked for him ever since, and also does US shipments for the Ukrainian company ARK Cryo, as well as EmbryoPort, a UK-based company.
Dorman is on the road about 70% of the month; when we spoke in mid-May, she was preparing for a week-long trip, starting with a pick up in Indianapolis, a drop off in Bratislava, a train from there to Prague for a pick up another pick-up, and then a flight to Greece. Like all couriers who have worked for a long time, she is often in a state of politeness. In the 18 months since she started, she has shipped more than 90 shipments. “Now I can pretty much do it in my sleep,” she says.