Femtech companies are finally experiencing an investment boom

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A CALLED HORMONE Relaxin helps loosen the hips of pregnant women. Without them the pain of childbirth would be unbearable. However, relaxin remains in the female body for up to a year, when softer ligaments make new mothers more prone to injuries, as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Olympic champion of the heptathlon, discovered in training after giving birth in 2014. Five years later, Dame Jessica launched Jennis, a fitness app that helps other women exercise safely after giving birth. It now enables users to optimize training for the different phases of their menstrual cycle and has just completed a successful round of funding.

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Dame Jessica’s startup is part of a wave of femtech companies that are finding ways for women to overcome gender-specific health problems. According to Global Market Insights, a research firm, the market could more than double from $ 22.5 billion last year to more than $ 65 billion by 2027. After ignoring it for years – Femtech received only 3% of all health technology funding in 2020, and a modest $ 14 billion invested worldwide to date – venture capitalists are finally waking up. So far this year you have invested just under 1.2 billion US dollars in the industry, again almost half as much as the annual record of 2019 (see Figure 1).

Last year Bayer, a major German drug maker, paid $ 425 million to buy KaNDy, a UK developer of a non-hormonal treatment for menopausal symptoms, and backed Bill Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft BIOMILQ, a startup that produces cell-cultured breast milk that aims to bring both parents closer to their newborns. In August, Maven Clinic, an American startup that started as femtech but expanded to other health care sectors, raised $ 110 million and achieved unicorn status with a valuation of more than $ 1 billion. In September, Elvie, another UK company, raised $ 97 million from venture capital firms.

Unlike men’s health technologies, which often focus on erectile dysfunction, a condition that affects perhaps one in ten potential users, femtech offers products such as period trackers, which are useful for virtually every 4 billion women in the world at some point in their lives could be of value lives. In addition, women are 75% more likely than men to use digital health care tools. This results in a huge market potential.

A big reason for Femtech’s slow growth is the underlying medical science. For conditions that affect all humans, men are more likely to be screened, mainly due to the mistaken concern that hormonal fluctuations in women can skew results (male mice are preferred for the same reason). In the few more inclusive studies, the results are rarely broken down by gender, which obscures how diseases – and the drugs used to treat them – affect women differently. “We operated as if women were just smaller versions of men,” observes Alisa Vitti, a hormone expert whose work on the 29-day “infradian” body clock, which affects everything from metabolism to pain sensitivity, is a unique woman Phenomenon underpins many period trackers.

As a result, many women-specific health problems, despite their ubiquity, have been routinely neglected. Femtechs help to close this research gap. Given that eight out of ten women have premenstrual pain but no treatments are specifically designed to relieve it, the founders of Daye, a UK startup, designed a cannabidiol-infused tampon after discovering the vaginal canal contains more cannabinoid receptors than any other part of the female body.

Hertility Health, also from the UK, offers non-invasive tests that can help diagnose nine common gynecological diseases. Elvie’s Quiet Portable Breast Pump is a best-seller in America and the UK; His app-controlled pelvic floor trainer reduces the likelihood of the typical procedure in which surgeons “insert a fishing net and lift your pelvic organs because they fall out of your vagina,” says Tania Boler, company founder.

Labor pains

That is a welcome step forward. But too many femtechs are facing an uphill battle. Helen O’Neill, who heads Hertility Health, describes her company’s $ 5.7 million financing round in June as a “soul-destroying” process. “It was mostly gray-haired men who said they weren’t sure there was a market for them,” she says. It doesn’t matter that all women with a reproductive system will need gynecological help at some point. â– 

This article appeared in the business section of the print edition under the heading “Girls without a break”


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