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The femtech pioneers making headlines this year

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This year seems to have been a pivotal moment for the femtech market, with some experts predicting it to be worth US$60bn by 2027.

What started off with period tracking apps has developed into a lucrative industry, tapping into what has traditionally been a somewhat neglected field of healthcare. While medical expenses attributed to women amount to approximately US$500 billion per year, only four per cent of healthcare R&D is targeted at women’s health issues.

Added to this a global pandemic, where we’ve all struggled to see a healthcare provider face-to-face, and it appears women are taking their healthcare into their own hands.

From fertility trackers to breastfeeding and menopause support, 2021 has been the year of femtech – with 2022 looking set to bring more of the same. Here are some of 2021’s femtech headline makers…

Health and reproductive care

Start-up Hertility Health raised £4.2m in seed funding earlier this year to help grow its hormone and reproductive health-related product range.

The funding will help the firm expand its current product offering of fertility and hormone testing, along with menopause, miscarriage, postnatal care, polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis testing.

It will also support the expansion of its current clinical trials, which aim to reduce the diagnosis time for some of the most common reproductive conditions.

Hertility Health helps women to understand their reproductive health and infertility risks, working with experts to provide personalised care pathways for all aspects of women’s health, including symptom management, egg freezing and IVF.

It was founded by female scientists while on maternity leave and launched during lockdown last year, as demand surged for remote and accessible help as a result of the pandemic.

Hashimoto’s disease

Hashimoto’s disease is a condition with nearly 500 million sufferers worldwide.

It affects the thyroid, which is responsible for hormones by regulating the processes in the cells of almost all systems in our body, such as immune, endocrine, digestive, nervous and reproductive.

Diagnosis can take up to eight years as there are thought to be 45 different symptoms, and women are five to eight times more likely to suffer than men.

One of these women is Eva Galant, founder and CEO of Hashiona, an app that helps sufferers to change their daily habits and put the disease into remission.

The app was launched last year and has already attracted more than 10,000 users, mainly women, suffering from Hashimoto’s disease and thyroid-related conditions.

Its interactive design contains videos, infographics, articles and tests, all designed to help achieve remission in 20 weeks.

Periods and exercise

In 2019, Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill launched Jennis, a fitness app to help women perform safe post-natal workouts.

In 2021, the app added a cycle-mapping function, which helps amateur exercise fans train, eat and sleep in patterns that work with their hormonal cycles.

Recommendations are varied across the four phases of a menstrual cycle, as this helps to create more efficient training programs, lean muscle gains and increased energy levels.

Jessica said: “By making it easier for women to understand their cycles, I want to help women all over the world feel better, train better and understand their bodies better. That’s a legacy I will be really proud of.”

Conception support

Femometer is a Chinese-based firm that has developed a number of smart devices for women’s health and wellbeing.

Its first product was a basal thermometer, which can act as a natural contraception method or help women who are trying to conceive, followed in 2019 by Femometer Ivy, which monitors luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, to help women determine when they are ovulating.

Earlier this year, the company launched Lilac, which it claimed was the first smart Kegel exerciser on the market to help women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles.

The silicon device has 360-degree pressure detection and connects via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone, providing real-time biofeedback through the Femometer app.

Increasing representation

In April, Bristol-based innovation and product development agency, Kinneir Dufort (KD), launched an initiative called XXEquals, the UK’s first mostly female team designing products for women across the consumer, industrial and medical markets.

Around half of the world’s population is female and women buy 85 per cent of household products, yet data shows only five per cent of the product and design industry is female.

Inspired by the growing need to design more female-focused products in the femtech space, XXEquals is working on projects including smart femcare solutions which monitor and diagnose women’s health conditions, digital ecosystems delivering personalised health and wellness solutions for women and voice recognition software.

The agency has previously developed women-centred products including a breast scanning bed and a device to increase success during IVF.

 

 

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New survey to ‘amplify’ marginalised voices in healthcare decision-making

UK charities enter partnership to address gender gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies

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The gynaecological health charity Cysters and Endometriosis UK have announced a partnership to amplify women’s voice in healthcare decision-making.

Despite progress in healthcare data collection, there remains a gap in representing the experiences of marginalised groups, particularly for those impacted by conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Decision-makers in Parliament and the NHS often rely on data and statistics to inform policy and resource allocation. However, these datasets may not accurately reflect the experiences of marginalised communities.

A recent report from Endometriosis UK that gathered data on the experiences of being diagnosed with endometriosis in the UK found that whilst the ethnicity of respondents who identified as ‘white’ was proportionate to the data collected in the Census 2021, the remaining data was not illustrative of the ethnic diversity of the UK, with 15 per cent of respondents choosing not to respond to the ethnicity question.

To address this gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies, Cysters and Endometriosis UK are launching a new survey initiative aimed at amplifying the voices of marginalised groups in healthcare decision-making.

“We know that the current statistics are not inclusive of all communities, particularly marginalised groups,” said Neelam Heera-Shergill, founder of Cysters.

“By encouraging those from marginalised communities to share their experiences through this survey, they will be helping us to advocate for the changes that are needed, backed by evidence from their communities.

“In addition to delving into the diagnosis journey for people of colour and the unique barriers they encounter. We aim for this research and findings to pave the way for additional funded research on all menstrual-related conditions affecting people of colour.”

The survey seeks to gather insights into the experiences of marginalised communities, particularly concerning conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences openly and honestly, knowing that their responses will contribute to shaping more inclusive healthcare policies.

Sarah Harris, a researcher at Cysters, said: “We urge everyone to participate in this survey and share it far and wide. Together, we can ensure that all voices are considered in the conversation surrounding healthcare policy and resource allocation.”

The survey is anonymous and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. To participate, visit Delayed Diagnosis of Endometriosis Among People of Colour in the UK Survey.

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Menstrual care start-up launches period equity initiative across college campuses

The initiative is hoped to facilitate access to period care and educate students on the use of more sustainable products

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Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt

The US menstrual care start-up Saalt has launched a new initiative aimed at addressing period poverty and environmental sustainability.

The Period Equity Initiative aims to reduce 100 million tampons from the environment while combatting period poverty.

Institutions, including Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, the University of Utah and the University of Nebraska, are already participating in the programme.

One in five female college students in the US have had to decide between buying period products and paying for other basic essentials like food and other bills according to a nationwide survey.

The initiative, a direct response to the demand for more units for student populations, underscores the issue of period poverty, which affects students across America, challenging the misconception that it is solely an “overseas problem”.

Saalt aims to make period care accessible and affordable through the subsidisation of reusable period products, such as cups, discs, and period underwear, to participating universities and their campus affiliates.

The project is hoped to not only facilitate access to period care, but also educate students on the use of more sustainable products, which are designed to be reused rather than discarded.

“Every day we hear from customers about how life-changing Saalt cups are for them,” said Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt.

“Creating period equity and managing the environmental impact created by disposables are pressing matters that demand urgent attention and innovative solutions.

“Through our Period Equity Initiative, we’re taking a proactive approach to tackle these challenges by leveraging our expertise and aligning with universities across America to make a big impact closer to home.”

The Period Equity Initiative, Hoeger added, furthers Saalt’s commitment to making period care more affordable, accessible and sustainable.

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Medical device start-up enters partnership with Bayer Switzerland

The collaboration is hoped to help “transform” gynaecological examinations

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The medical device start-up Aspivix has announced a partnership with Bayer Switzerland in an effort to “modernise” gynaecological procedures.

Aspivix has developed an innovative, suction-based cervical device designed as an alternative to the tenaculum, a surgical instrument commonly used in gynaecology for over a century.

The device aims to reduce pain and bleeding during transcervical procedures, including IUD placement.

Through the partnership with Bayer, Aspivix is now officially introducing Carevix in an effort to “transform” gynaecological examinations.

The collaboration is hoped to help bring the tool to market and offer women a more comfortable gynaecological experience, reducing the cases of pain associated with IUD procedures.

“We are excited to enter this partnership with Bayer (Schweiz) AG that truly emphasise the goal of empowering women to select the best contraceptive solution without worrying about potential pain and bleeding,” said Mathieu Horras, co-founder and CEO of Aspivix.

“The thorough research and clinical data behind Carevix guarantee a notable decrease in pain and bleeding, enhancing the experience of IUD adoption and placement, as well as various other gynaecological procedures for millions of women.”

The device, Horras added, provides an appealing alternative to the currently available tenaculum, filling an “important” unmet need.

Marco Gierten, Bayer Switzerland women’s healthcare lead, said: “As a globally trusted brand, Bayer remains committed to advancing solutions that provide significant benefits to patients.”

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