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Light-based techniques could be used to diagnose menopause

A new approach introduces the potential for quantitative measurements of hormones

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New non-invasive, light-based techniques could be used to diagnose health-related concerns, including menopause and glaucoma.

Researchers Samantha Grist from the University of British Columbia and Fernando Zvietcovich from Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru have proposed two separate light-based techniques to address the challenges in diagnosing menopause and glaucoma, a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve.

Each research effort, supported by a US$100,000 grant from the Optica Foundation, is hoped to help scientists better understand the two conditions.

Despite the number of menopausal women worldwide estimated to surpass one billion by 2025, physicians have limited tools and data to understand and predict symptoms or improve treatment.

A study based on data from the largest ever survey of menopausal and peri-menopausal women in the UK has shown a lack of support for women going through menopause both in the workplace and in the healthcare system.

Grist’s work offers promise in the form of a silicon photonic integrated circuit (PIC) with biosensors. This silicon PIC approach introduces the potential for quantitative measurements of hormones, with tens to hundreds of biosensors integrated on a single millimeter-scale chip in the future.

PIC-based biosensor analysis has often required costly and bulky systems that limit their applicability in clinical environments. However, Grist says she and her team aim to build a new sensor architecture that addresses this challenge.

“Our work focuses on validating a portable, low-cost technology for decentralised, multiplexed monitoring of hormone markers in urine,” she explains.

“We will build a tool that has the potential to drastically improve health and quality of life during the menopausal transition.”

In six months, Grist hopes to be at the stage to start actively measuring hormone markers and evaluating the full scope of the application with an interdisciplinary team.

“I didn’t realise there was such a profound lack of diagnostic and treatment options for perimenopause and menopause until I met with Herstasis Health, a Canadian nonprofit dedicated to addressing this issue,” she says.

“Now, I’m really motivated to help people experiencing menopause diagnose and predict its stages and address its symptoms. This grant gives me the chance to do meaningful work and demonstrate how photonic innovation can address unmet needs.”

The research initiatives were supported by grants awarded through the Optica Foundation Challenge. The challenge was aimed at engaging early-career professionals in “out-of-the-box thinking” and provide seed money to investigate hypotheses in the areas of environment, health and information.

Alan Willner, chair of the Challenge Selection Committee, said: “As healthcare diagnostics advance, new opportunities for non-invasive, light-based techniques continue to emerge.

“Excitedly, both Dr Grist and Dr Zvietcovich are exploring novel, innovative ways of using light to address issues found in current modalities—precisely the kind of exemplary work the Optica Foundation Challenge strives to address.”

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Tech4Eva launches its fourth edition and call for application

Tech4Eva is searching for entrepreneurs ready to address the unmet health needs of women worldwide

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Tech4Eva, a pioneering accelerator programme dedicated to the femtech sector, is opening its call for applications, inviting femtech start-ups to join its mission to improve women’s health.

The programme is searching for entrepreneurs ready to address the unmet health needs of women worldwide, promising to help entrepreneurs to take their start-ups to the next level.

What is Tech4Eva?

Tech4Eva, is a joint programme between EPFL Innovation Park and Groupe Mutuel for companies developing innovative technology solutions to improve women’s health globally.

What is Tech4Eva looking for? 
Why join?

Applying to the Tech4Eva accelerator programme is a pivotal step for any femtech start-up looking to elevate its impact and reach in the women’s health sector.

Here is an overview of the benefits the programme offers:

  • Strategic refinement: Sharpen your business model and go-to-market strategy with expert guidance, positioning your start-up for sustainable growth and success.
  • Enhanced visibility: Participate in roadshows to showcase your innovative solutions, broadening your exposure to key stakeholders in the Tech4Eva femtech ecosystem.
  • Direct connections: Gain invaluable access to a network of investors and potential customers.
  • Personalised coaching: Receive targeted technical and business coaching tailored to your start-up’s unique challenges.
  • Peer learning: Benefit from Peer2Peer sessions that foster exchange of insights and experiences with fellow founders.
  • Community engagement: Become an integral part of a global femtech community, connecting with like-minded innovators committed to transforming women’s health.
The time is now

This is more than a call for applications, it’s a call to action. The Tech4Eva accelerator programme offers more than growth – it offers a chance to be part of a movement set to redefine the future of women’s health.

If your start-up is ready to take the next step, your time is now. Apply here to join the Tech4Eva programme now.

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Investors launch female-focused angel network in the north of England

The Leeds-based group aims to build a diverse investment community for women entrepreneurs in the north of England

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Two UK-based businesswomen have launched an angel investment network to back women-led start-ups in the north of England.

Co-founded by Jordan Dargue and Helen Oldham, Lifted Ventures was launched based on research showing that female-led businesses generate on average double the revenue for each pound invested, despite receiving minimal funding.

Funding has been identified as a top barrier for women in tech and business, with the Alison Rose Review revealing that less than one per cent of all venture funding goes to all-female-founded start-ups.

Dargue and Oldham, who led the NorthInvest angel network and co-founded Fund Her North and Women Angels of the North, said they came together to this new venture to build on their work in closing the early-stage gender and ethnic funding gap in the UK.

The Leeds-based group aims to build a diverse investment community for women entrepreneurs in the north of England, planning to create networks for angels and supply its capital to women-led startups.

“Too often the conversation focuses on disparity, gender funding gaps, barriers and challenges. Lifted Ventures is focusing on opportunity,” said Oldham, co-founder of Lifted Ventures and board member of the UK Business Angels Association, told UKTN.

“One of our main aims is to educate and inform investors on the proven business benefits and greater economic returns which result from supporting female-founded businesses.”

Lifted’s angel networks, Oldham said, would include education programmes to support new and experienced investors who want to gain a better understanding of how to back female-led businesses.

“We understand that female-led businesses and women angels need tailored pathways to ensure that they’re successful,” explained Jordan, co-founder of Lifted Ventures.

“The education programmes we’re developing aim to provide investors and founders alike with the practical resources and knowledge they need to ensure success.”

She aded: “We believe that investment should be accessible to everyone, irrespective of their background, ethnicity, gender, neuro or physical diversity.”

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US maternity clinic raises a US$28m to expand nationally

Oula plans to expand its hybrid care approach and launch new services for those in their reproductive years

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The US maternity care clinic Oula has raised a US$28m in funding to introduce new services and expand nationally.

Oula aims to brings together the best of midwifery and obstetrics to deliver, what the start-up describes as, “whole-person” care.

Since its launch in 2021, the clinic, which can currently be found in three locations in New York City, has focused on providing a better care experience for women, combing modern medicine with a more personalised approach.

Now, with nearly US$50m in total funding, Oula plans to expand its hybrid care approach to more markets beyond New York City and launch new services for those in their reproductive years.

“The power of Oula’s collaborative approach to care is that patients feel seen and heard during a transformative moment in their lives, health systems are able to address the evolving expectations of their communities and we can move the needle on unacceptable outcomes and disparities in maternal care,” explained Adrianne Nickerson, co-founder and CEO and of Oula.

Elaine Purcell, co-founder and COO of Oula, said: “We’ve not only proven that this model works, but that it’s what patients from all backgrounds, birth preferences, and income levels are looking for.

“Whether you can afford concierge care or are on Medicaid, we are building a modern and compassionate pregnancy care model that delivers better outcomes than the system has proven to do. We deserve better and yes, you can have it all.”

Clara Sieg, partner and founding member at Revolution Ventures, which co-led the funding round alongside Maverick Ventures, said: “Pregnancy outcomes in the US have consistently deteriorated over the past two decades.

“Oula is solving this mounting crisis by reimagining the maternal experience with midwifery-first, team-based care supported by virtual wrap-around services and a tech-enabled platform.

“We are excited to partner with the team as Oula scales its care model and empowers women to receive personalised, trusted support throughout pregnancy.”

David Singer of Maverick Ventures, added: “We are thrilled to back a company that effectively aligns the needs of mothers, health systems and payers, and breaks the false binary between unmedicalised and hypermedicalised care.”

Instead of waiting for the standard eight-week ultrasound, Oula allows patients to book an appointment as soon as their positive pregnancy test, supporting patients in the postpartum period.

The clinic also plans to introduce pre-conception coaching visits and expanded miscarriage support options in the coming year.

Joanne Schneider, Oula’s chief experience officer, said: “Oula is distinct in the pregnancy landscape today not only in redesigning the standard pregnancy and birth experience, but also in filling the gaps where the medical system typically fails patients: early pregnancy care and postpartum. Even when there aren’t any medical needs, these are times when people need emotional support.

She added: “Miscarriages are extremely common, so I was shocked at how isolated I felt when I had my own miscarriage. It’s not considered a big deal medically, but it’s a very big deal when you are going through it.”

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