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‘Tamagotchi with a twist’- the device you didn’t know you needed

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Tired of apps? Enter IMMI, the period tracking device you didn’t know you needed. 

The IMMI tracker is a device that can learn to track and monitor your menstrual cycle without an app or smartphone.

The gadget, which doesn’t require internet connectivity, is suitable for any geographies, communities and ages and promises to positively impact women’s sense of agency, body literacy and overall self-esteem and mental health. Founder and CEO, Sarah Cottee, tells us all about it below.

How would you describe IMMI in a few words?

IMMI is building simple, private, fashionable menstrual tracking consumer products that don’t require internet connectivity to work; think tamagotchi that also warns you when your period is due!

What inspired you to create IMMI? 

I was working in private philanthropy, funding social enterprises throughout South East Asia and living in Manila, where I saw firsthand the lack of access to education that women and girls had.

Around the same time I had come off hormonal birth control and was on my own journey of getting to know my body and cycle.

I was very concerned with the privacy limitations of the period tracking apps, so I set out to create a solution that mitigated my worries, and was accessible to women and girls everywhere. 

Sarah Cottee, founder and CEO of IMMI

My passion for women’s health, however, runs in the family. My grandmother, an Irish midwife living in Liverpool, taught women in the local community about cycles and fertility, and worked closely with the University of Birmingham on early, pioneering research they were doing in this space. 

As you were building IMMI, what was the need you identified?

It was two fold; the average age that girls download period tracking apps is 21, and considering they start their periods around age 12, this is a huge gap where they’re not learning about their body, their emotions and their mental health in relation to their cycle.

Secondly, I kept hearing that people who were using apps were either fed up with how much data they were being asked to enter and experiencing “app fatigue”, or concerned with their data being stored on the cloud.

Consumers wanted something low-lift, smart, but that enabled them to keep their data private.

What makes IMMI different?

It doesn’t require an app and all the data is locally stored on the tracker itself, however it’s still “smart”.

We’ve increased the memory so it stores each cycle data, and our algorithm continuously calculates a rolling average. This means that your tracker learns your unique average cycle length making the period predictions more accurate over time.

You also have the ability to “reset” the tracker and clear its memory if needed. With our new design, you can attach it to your keys, purse or bag so that it’s always with you.

People may be thinking ‘How is IMMI helping women better understand their bodies’. What’s your response to that?  

IMMI is designed to empower women by simplifying how they track and understand their menstrual cycles. We started by asking, “Why is it easier to know the date on the calendar than the day of your menstrual cycle?”

Our goal is to make tracking your menstrual cycle as straightforward as checking the time and date. By providing a tool that integrates this aspect of health into daily life, IMMI empowers women to recognise their body’s own unique signals, and gain a deeper understanding of themselves throughout their reproductive years.  

How would you describe the impact and importance of your work?

In a time where women’s health data is being weaponised, providing an option that puts privacy first is vital. IMMI allows women to track and learn about their cycle without any concerns that their data might be shared with a third party. 

Furthermore, we worked with one of the UN Agencies to conduct a pilot and see the impact of IMMI on girls in emerging markets who don’t have access to accurate, trustworthy information, leaving them vulnerable to, social exclusion, dropping out of school or unplanned pregnancy.

Over the six months of the trial, the proportion of women and girls who said they knew the expected start date of their period leaped from 58 per cent to 81 per cent in the Republic of Moldova, and from 47 per cent to 82 per cent in Burkina Faso.

Girls reported a significant decrease in anxiety from having this information accessible, and others said they were finally able to talk to their mum about this topic. 

What is the best part about building IMMI and being an entrepreneur in this space? 

Meeting incredible innovators! I get to meet the most inspiring men and women all over the world who are pushing forward the female health agenda and providing solutions that are truly novel and useful, allowing women to lead a more integrated and empowered life.

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Labcorp launches screening test to identify preeclampsia risk sooner

The new screening tool is capable of assessing the risk of preeclampsia sooner, the test maker says

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Labcorp has launched a screening test that can assess the risk of preeclampsia before 34 weeks of pregnancy.

Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure disorder that can develop during pregnancy or postpartum and is a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Roughly one in 25 pregnancies in the US is affected by preeclampsia, which poses an even greater risk for non-Hispanic black women, who experience the condition at a 60 per cent higher rate compared to white women.

In January, Labcorp announced the launch and availability of an FDA-cleared blood test for risk assessment and clinical management of severe preeclampsia during the second and third trimesters.

The first trimester test uses four early pregnancy biomarkers to provide a risk assessment with up to 90 per cent sensitivity, nearly twice the sensitivity of assessing typical maternal history or biophysical factors alone.

According to Labcorp, the test results provide risk identification earlier than traditional symptoms, such as hypertension or protein in the urine, which tend to develop around 20 weeks gestation.

Eleni Tsigas, chief executive officer of the Preeclampsia Foundation, said: “Our organisation celebrates this innovative new test offering.

“Research shows that patients and providers want access to more tools that better predict progression to preeclampsia, especially for those patients with low- to average-risk or those with first-time pregnancies for whom there is some uncertainty.”

Dr Brian Caveney, chief medical and scientific officer at Labcorp, added: “Labcorp is committed to advancing maternal and foetal health through innovative diagnostic and screening solutions.

“This new first trimester blood test is another significant milestone in our mission to improve health and improve lives. By giving healthcare providers another tool to assess preeclampsia risk in their pregnant patients with objective biomarkers, we’re helping to advance prenatal care and improve outcomes for mothers and their babies.”

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People with HIV can be sperm and egg donors

A change in law will allow people with non-transmissible HIV in the UK to donate gametes to partners

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Same-sex couples with non-transmissible HIV will now be able to donate eggs or sperm and become parents.

People with HIV will able to donate their sperm or eggs to their partners, as the law in the UK is updated.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act will be amended via a statutory instrument to allow people with non-transmissible HIV – with a viral load low enough not to pass on – to donate eggs or sperm, known as gametes, as part of fertility treatment to their partners.

Under current rules on IVF, only a male partner with HIV can give their sperm to their female partner and not to anyone else.

The law change will also eliminate extra screening costs for female same-sex couples undertaking reciprocal IVF treatment.

The government says this is part of wider work to improve access to IVF for everyone and ensure same-sex couples have the same rights as a man and woman when trying to conceive.

“These changes will allow more people to fulfil their dream of becoming parents,” said UK health minister, Maria Caulfield.

“We have changed the law to ensure equality for people living with HIV when accessing IVF, allowing them to donate their eggs and sperm.

“In addition, the change will allow female same-sex couples to access IVF with no extra screening costs, the same as heterosexual couples.”

She added: “These changes will help create a fairer system by removing barriers to accessing fertility care as we have set out in the Women’s Health Strategy.”

The changes to the law will allow people with HIV to donate their gametes to family, friends and known recipients.

The regulations include an updated definition of partner donation to enable female same-sex couples wishing to donate eggs to each other to undergo the same testing requirements as heterosexual couples.

Under current rules, female same-sex couples hoping to conceive via reciprocal IVF must first go through screening for syphilis and genetic screening, such as cystic fibrosis, which can cost over £1,000, while heterosexual couples do not need to undergo this screening.

Julia Chain, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “The HFEA welcomes the news that legislation regarding partner donation in relation to reciprocal IVF, and gamete donation from those who have HIV with an undetectable viral load, has now been proposed in Parliament.

“Fertility treatment is helping more people than ever to create their family, and everyone undergoing fertility treatment should be treated fairly.

“For known donation from individuals with undetectable HIV, we anticipate that the first clinics may be able to begin to offer this treatment around 3 months following a change in the law.

“We encourage any patients or donors who may be affected by these changes to visit the HFEA website to find out free and impartial information, including about how to choose a fertility clinic.”

Minister for equalities, Stuart Andrew MP, added: “Treatment for HIV has improved significantly, saving countless lives, but the stigma surrounding it persists – a stigma which often prevents people from getting tested and seeking treatment.

“These changes will help to reduce that stigma, making it clear that people with HIV can live full and happy lives. I am delighted by these changes which will enable more people to experience the joy of becoming parents.”

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Portfolia invests total of US$65m into women’s health companies

The platform has invested in 47 femtech start-ups to date

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Trish Costello, founder and CEO of Portfolia

The US venture investing platform Portfolia has announced it has invested a total of US$65m into women’s health companies and solutions.

Portfolia aims to create, educate and support the largest community of women investors in the world.

The company says it was amongst the first to recognise the “immense” potential of women’s wealth, with women’s health at the forefront.

To date, Portfolia has made investments in 112 companies with 47 of those women’s health companies being femtech and active aging specific.

Some of these include Madison Reed, Maven, Everly Health, Bone Health, Veana, Your Choice, Future Family, Willow, Hey Jane, Lighthouse Pharma, L-Nutra and JoyLux.

The total companies Portfolia has invested in are estimated to serve over 102 million customers in 115 countries worldwide.

These companies have a combined value of over US$17bn, with over US$1bn in revenue and 10,000 employees worldwide.

According to Portfolia, almost 70 per cent of these businesses are led by female CEOs, and 49 per cent are led by BIPOC individuals.

“At Portfolia, we believe in the power of activating our wealth for returns and impact,” said Trish Costello, founder and CEO of Portfolia.

“Today, women in the United States have unprecedented access to wealth – with over US$25tn of wealth in the US and almost 50 per cent of it owned by women.

“This wealth is power – power to create financial change and invest in the companies and businesses that matter to us and meet our needs/desires.”

She added: “Our commitment goes beyond traditional venture capital – we’re pioneering change, saving lives, and creating opportunities for all, while creating the most powerful community of women investors globally, and the first to activate our wealth to shape the future of healthcare.”

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