Richelle Duque Björvang
PhD Student
Karolinska Institute


Who is Richelle Duque Björvang?

I am a medical doctor and molecular biologist from the Philippines, and currently finishing my PhD studies at the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology at Karolinska Institute, Sweden. Outside of the university, I love baking for other people, taking care of my plants, completing 1000-piece puzzles, doing yoga for relaxation, creating arts and crafts, and running.

What is your focus in the FREIA project?

I am investigating the link between female reproductive outcomes and EDC exposure in women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment (IVF) in Sweden. I am also ensuring that our Swedish cohort can be merged with the Estonian IVF cohort for a meta-analysis. 

What is an interesting result you have obtained so far? 

Regarding persistent organic pollutants (POPs), we have found that concentrations of POPs in the blood reflect well the levels in the follicular fluid. Certain POPs were associated with lower anti-Mullerian hormone, higher basal antral follicle count but lower embryo quality, and lower chances for clinical implantation and live birth. Analyses regarding phthalates, bisphenols and parabens are currently on-going. 

What would you like to accomplish within the FREIA project?

It would be really cool to see how the Swedish and Estonian cohorts can be instrumental in further understanding the mechanisms of EDCs in the ovaries. By studying this, I hope that this can be a step towards improving women’s health. 

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting you/your work?

Even though the collection of samples was already done when the pandemic hit, some chemical analyses on these samples were delayed. Nonetheless, we maximized the time by focusing on chemical analyses that were already performed and submitted a manuscript about that.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the people following FREIA?

I am really proud to be part of the FREIA project. With the collective efforts of researchers from different disciplines across EU, FREIA works not only towards understanding how the EDCs can affect infertility but also towards developing a more accurate method for EDC identification and screening. By doing these, we are one step closer towards living in a chemically-safe environment.