Techie Reads

I’ll be posting here about interesting companies and articles I’ve read related to health and technology, specifically related to women’s health & hospital at home.

Day 3 at WHII: We're going to be waiting a while for VCs or pharma to invest in women's health

Day 3 at WHII

Last day of my WHII write-up. Again I had to choose which sessions to attend and unfortunately couldn't attend them all.

Takeaways from Day 3:

  • As the cannabis market is currently very hyped & 27% of cannabis companies have women executives, it looks like there is a potential for much needed research and innovation for cannabis related female products

  • Doesn't look like male-led VCs or pharma companies are going to start investing in femtech very soon

  • The emerging markets are growing but VCs are not investing because it's longer term

  • We need to completely reinvent sexual wellness solutions for women (particularly those having painful sex) and it's necessary to take a "for women by women" approach

Some highlights from Day 3 below:

Day 3

For me the highlight of this day was the Panel on Unmet Needs related to the Sexual Health Life Cycle in the afternoon. This space needs to be researched and basically completely reinvented.

Rebecca Sternberg, Co-Founder and CMO of Aquafit

  • 1-2 in 5 women suffer from vaginal discomfort and painful sex

    • Pelvic floor Hyper-Tonus; 20% of women (age 16-35)

    • Dryness/Loss of Elasticity; 11% of women (40 and up)

    • Radiation/Surgery/Delivery; 1%-5% of women (age 18+)

  • 2-3 year delay of actual diagnosis! Up to 15 visits to the doctor. Women usually are not taken seriously and have a negative experience with vaginal therapy solutions that exist today (dilators made of plastic)

  • 70% of women do not complete dilation therapy protocols

  • Aquafit is a pain free intimate training hydrogel stick providing active agent delivery. It is made of all natural ingredients

Maya Magnat, Sexuality Educator & Digital Artist

  • Laureen HD's youtube channel tries to break down the stigma of living with HSV. She realized women are looking for information on the internet and there are no good sources (i.e. how to tell your partner about your diagnosis?)

  • The Ohnut, a product that is designed for women by women for women that experience vaginismus, to enable them to have pleasurable sex.

    • This product raised money using a kickstarter — Direct-to-Consumer at it’s best!

Sharon Peleg Nesher, CEO of Rotem Institute

  • A higher percentage of women have sexual complaints (lack interest, orgasm problems, sex not pleasurable & pain during sex) compared to men based on study with 3000+ participants

  • Current FDA approved libido pill (Bremelatonide) available for women causes dizziness and fatigue in >10% of the subjects

Dr. Dorit Shweiki, Head of Bioinformatics at The Academic College of Tel Aviv Yafo

  • Women were not included in clinical trials until 1994

  • In 2015, Phase III of the clinical trial of ADDY1, also known as the female Viagra, the alcohol interaction of the drug was tested on 23 MEN and 2 WOMEN (this drug is FDA approved)

  • There is a male bias in basic research -- even when testing on mouse and rats, 90% and 80% of the time, respectively, we don't know if the cells are from males or females.

    • This fact shocked me, and I will be writing more about this soon for sure!

Mike Quick, VP of R&D and Innovation at Hologic opened with some facts about women's unmet needs:

  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer

  • 1 in 5 women suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding (this took me back to my earlier post that mentioned Looncup/My.Flow, two startups that might enable women to measure their heavy blood flow).

  • Nearly 600,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year

  • He mentioned that Hologic provides medical aesthetic solutions such as the MonaLisa Touch. The MonaLisa Touch reverses the deterioration of the vaginal walls, a condition that many menopausal women suffer from. The fact that this device is called and categorized as aesthetic is ridiculous and also means that insurance companies don't cover it. Hear more about it in this Genneve podcast.

Sari Prutchi Sagiv, Chief Scientific Officer, Gynica

  • Gynica is trying to understand the optimal cannabinoid-based combination for the treatment of endometriosis

  • 3 main species and 2,000 different strains of cannabis; They are different due to the ratio of their compounds. There are 144 different cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, etc.) and 200 different terpenes (beta caryophyliene, myrcene, etc.) and different flavanoids (cannflavin, apigenin).

  • Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body

  • The endocannabinoid receptors increase and decrease throughout the menstrual cycle and the uterus has a large amount of receptors

  • The endocannabinoid system is an important factor in endometriosis development; the expression of CB1 receptors is significantly lower in the eutopic endometrium of women with endometriosis compared with controls

Michelle Arbus, VP Research & Insights, Stainprint

  • Strainprint collects user data from Canadian cannabis users (due to regulation, there is a lot more information about each specific cannabis product that is sold in Canada)

  • Women are getting less relief of pain from cannabis products than men

  • Composition of effective cannabis for insomnia varies by gender

Investment in FemTech Panel. Participants: Benny Zeevi, Anula Jayasuriya, Alice Zheng, Irit Yaniv, Orit Alperovitz, Mary Carmen, Oren Oz, Sivan Sadan & Ariel Beery

This panel opened with an interesting lecture by Alice Zheng, McKinsey Consultant

  • Trending areas in investment in femtech: Gynecology, pelvic, menstrual and sexual health; Fertility; Maternal health; Contraception

  • FemTech startups are disrupting women's health care and empowering women. They are going directly to the consumer, pushing science to address unmet needs, and directly addressing stigmatized areas

  • 2/3 of FemTech startups have female founders

  • Believes women's health biotechs will focus on female-specific diseases and disrupt the field

  • Many opportunities in the menopause space; Women's oncology is an attractive spot for pharma

  • Need deeper scientific knowledge about women's health (not just female-specific disease areas)

Afterwards the panel conversation was very interesting. They discussed why VCs are not investing in women's health or emerging markets because it's a longer term investment and it's easier to invest in immunology/rare disease therapies. Mary Carmen from P&G thinks that P&G/Johnson & Johnson and the like will be better partners for emerging market initiatives because they believe in consumer products, have experience in emerging markets, and know that's where the world is heading. Hema Divakar brought up that we are looking at women in emerging markets as so poor but they are spending money on so many things -- if we give them access to health products they will buy them. This reminded me of Hans Rosling's book Factfulness, in which he explains why people have incorrect perceptions about progress in the world.

Reach out if you want to hear more!

Netta Levran