Start-ups and tech companies are creating products to address women’s health care needs. It’s still a small segment of the market, but growing.
Women represent half of the planet’s population. Yet tech companies catering to their specific health needs represent a minute share of the global technology market.
“The market potential is huge,” said Michelle Tempest, a partner at the London-based health care consultancy Candesic and a psychiatrist by training. “There’s definitely an increasing appetite for anything in the world which is technology, and a realization that female consumer power has arrived — and that it’s arrived in health care.”
She said one reason women-related needs had not been focused on in the field of technology was that life sciences research was overwhelmingly “tailored to the male body.” In 1977, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration excluded women of childbearing age from taking part in drug trials. . Since then, women have been underrepresented in drug trials, Dr. Tempest said, because of a belief that fluctuations caused by menstrual cycles could affect trial results, and also because if a woman got pregnant after taking a trial drug, the drug could affect the fetus. As a result, she noted, “we do lag behind men.”
Finally, there are medical technology companies focused on cancer that affects women, such as cervical cancer and breast cancer.
A diagnosis is delivered in about 60 seconds — compared to the weeks it takes to receive the results of a standard smear test (which, in developing countries, extends to months.) In addition to this screening, doctors still use smear tests.
The technology was recently used to screen 9,000 women during a three-month period in the Dominican Republic as part of a government-led campaign, the company announced last month. Another 50,000 women are expected be screened in the next six months.
Leon Boston, the South African-born chief executive of MobileODT, said the privately owned company was selling into about 20 different countries including the United States, India, South Korea and Brazil, and is going into a fund-raising round to build on its initial seed money of $24 million.
How it works: Post-mastectomy, the surgeon harvests a small flap of fat from the area immediately around the woman’s breast and places it inside the 3-D-printed bioprosthesis. That piece of tissue grows inside the implant, and eventually fills it out. In the meantime, the 3-D-printed shell disappears completely 18 months later.
So far, tests on animals have been encouraging, said Julien Payen, the company’s co-founder and chief executive. Clinical trials on women are expected to start in 2022, with the aim of getting the product into the market in 2025, he added.
Asked why the global femtech market was so small for technology companies, Mr. Boston said it was partly because of the “high level of regulation” involved in medical technology.
“If your technology is incorrect and comes up with the wrong result, a woman who thinks she’s not positive for cervical cancer is actually positive,” he said. As a result, “the world of medical technology is slow to move.”
Still, prospects are favorable, according to Mr. Boston. “It’s very rare to have a totally barren market open for full potential, as we have today in medical technology,” he said.
Either way, said Mr. Payen, the industry showed promise.
“Over the last 10 years, thanks to #MeToo and other movements, women are being listened to and heard more than ever before,” Mr. Payen said. And “more and more women are running companies and investment funds,” he added.
“In 10 or 15 years from now, as a new generation takes over, things will have changed even more radically,” he said. “Femtech is clearly poised to grow.”
Source: New York Times