Investment in what’s typically called FemTech thought as diagnostic tools, products, and services linked to womens health has exploded in the last decade. Many of the most promising ventures have already been centered on reproductive care. Then came the U.S. Supreme Courts decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal and policy restrictions on reproductive healthcare that derive from this decision can not only have swift effect on people who will get pregnant and their own families, it will undermine critical regions of research, innovation, and progress toward more equitable healthcare outcomes. On the list of regions of concern: fertility treatments like IVF; personal data collection and the capability to drive research; a limiting of new investment and curbing of healthcare innovation more broadly; and the introduction of new obstacles for women founders.
Growth in what’s typically called FemTech thought as diagnostic tools, products, and services linked to womens health has exploded in the last decade. As recently as 2013, significantly less than $200 million had been committed to the field, but funding reached $2.5 billion in 2021, with projections predicting a continued ascent.
Forward-thinking founders have already been developing groundbreaking services and care models for women and families. Many of the most promising ventures in FemTech are centered on reproductive care: fertility clinic Kindbody reached unicorn status in early 2022, and menstruation and pregnancy app Flo is valued at a lot more than $800 million. Maven Clinic, a telehealth clinic whose services include reproductive care, became the initial U.S. unicorn focused on womens health in 2021 when it closed a $110 million series D round.
Then came the Supreme Courts recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Legal and policy restrictions on reproductive healthcare can not only have swift effect on people who will get pregnant and their own families, especially those that are hourly workers or low-income, it will undermine critical regions of research, innovation, and progress toward more equitable healthcare outcomes. In what of Alice Zheng, principal at RH Capital and former clinician: The overturning ofRoe v. Wadehas vast implications for the society and economy not only patients and clinicians who is able to no more appropriately receive or provide care, respectively, but health systems and payers bearing additional costs, employers with a workforce traveling for abortion care, and society most importantly once we grapple with this particular ” new world “.
While we acknowledge that some could be reluctant to have a position, we think that business leaders and policy makers should value the problem of abortion access since it deeply impacts the rights, health, and life prospects of people and communities. They ought to also understand the related implications for the forms of scientific advancements that drive economic growth. As academics who study gender, innovative startups, and healthcare, we see several key regions of science and business at an increased risk as we think about the impact of the Dobbs decision with this space. The damage the ruling does might not be fully revealed for quite a while, however the immediate effects will tend to be chilling.
An initial section of concern surrounds IVF. With the increased loss of federal privacy protection for reproductive healthcare decisions, states are actually absolve to grant legal personhood to fertilized eggs, a longstanding goal of several anti-abortion advocates. Such laws would upend or altogether end the usage of standard fertility treatments such as for example IVF for large swaths of U.S. residents partly because it will make it illegal to discard unused embryos. One analysis estimates that 18% of IVF cycles nationwide could possibly be impacted if the states that have moved to ban abortion enact fetal personhood laws. (So far, seven state legislatures have introduced such laws.)
This threat comes in the same way startups like Maven and Kindbody have already been innovating to create such treatments more accessible, including by making insurance plan options more accessible. Companies offering IVF services might need to scramble to go fertilized embryos to different states or take part in costly litigation. Along with generally dampening innovation of this type of fertility care, individuals who need IVF to conceive may face even fewer options.
Next are troubling implications for personal data and the firms that leverage it to boost consumers health. The privacy of health data collected by apps useful for reproductive care was a subject of concern before Dobbs, and the stakes have finally become higher. State laws that incentivize or require citizens and police to report and penalize people suspected of obtaining or providing abortions threaten a complete host of fertility-related care options. Prenatal diagnostics could become fodder for retaliatory investigations, as could digital tools for managing menstrual health.
This might compromise the power of companies like NextGen Jane and Frame Fertility, which concentrate on data-driven methods to health, to serve their customers. NextGen Jane collects menstrual blood from tampons, using genomic data to find early signs of disease that could affect fertility and standard of living. Frame Fertility helps users discover risk factors, such as for example endometriosis, which were previously undiagnosed and may impact their pregnancy outcomes. Forcing these along with other ventures to use in riskier, more ambiguous conditions, isnt best for their investors, founders, employees, or individuals they serve.
Data collection and data sharing are enabling better care delivery and driving research in countless different ways, such as for example making medical diagnoses more reliable and accurate, creating safer and much more comprehensive treatments, and reducing costs in practically all regions of care delivery. For instance, GIFT-Cloud, a data-sharing platform for fetal imaging research, has practically limitless potential uses in the areas, including identifying cancer risks. An innovation such as this is unlikely to survive long enough to attain such broad-scale implementation in case a shortage of prenatal data hinders it today. An unraveling or stalling of responsible data accrual and sharing could have deleterious effects on care, on science, and on the business enterprise outcomes of health systems.
Third, there could be a spillover effect into other styles of healthcare innovation. Even FemTech companies that dont work directly in reproductive care could possibly be constrained by extreme abortion restrictions. They could feel forced to divert resources from their core business to managing legal risk and potentially overlook investment from funds that now view womens health as too uncertain a prospect. Included in these are ventures attempting to address medical issues that affect tens of thousands of people, such as for example Renovia, a Boston-based company with an electronic therapeutic to take care of pelvic floor disorders (weakening of muscles or connective tissue of the pelvic area). This problem is sometimes however, not always linked to pregnancy and affects one in three women. Sowing confusion concerning the boundary between legally restricted and legally permissible health care not only helps it be harder for existing companies to use, its more likely to discourage new entrants from taking the plunge.
And what might the investment outlook maintain a post-Roe era? In accordance with Pitchbook, capital raising funding for FemTech has tripled since 2015. You can find likely investors who believe strongly enough in the moral vital to resource innovation in womens health they wont be frightened from including such companies within their portfolios. But overall, the patchwork nature of abortion restrictions will donate to an environment where we might see this capital shrink rather than grow, as potential returns become less clear, specifically for ventures suddenly viable only using states. Some investors may understandably shy from wading in to the now-murky territory of womens health for a complete host of reasons, a development that may slow the flow of dollars to companies attempting to solve issues with massive implications for both individual and community health.
Beyond the potential to choke off investment in womens health, the post-Roe era may possibly also curtail female founders and limit womens careers. Women are 40% more prone to invent for women than men, sufficient reason for a potential pullback in funding to show these ideas into businesses, the gender gap in entrepreneurship may widen. Better usage of reproductive healthcare increases womens propensity to become entrepreneurs regardless of the they work in, increases womens capability to secure VC funding, and improves the performance of female-run ventures. Consider that the introduction of oral contraceptives in the mid-20th century closed or narrowed gendered wage and career gaps, enabling firms to retain more and better female talent. The Dobbs decision may roll back these gains.
Its true that constraints can spur innovation and also impede it, and you can find organizations well-positioned to mitigate the pernicious implications of Dobbs. As womens health investor and entrepreneur Halle Tecco, talking with the Securities podcast noted, Constraints can compel creativity, but it is a real challenge facing every human not only every woman and something that leaders in this space have to address. Ventures like Contraline and YourChoice Therapeutics, which are centered on developing male contraceptive a long-underfunded field could see increased interest and investment in the coming years. Existing companies have found methods to protect their users from prosecution. Aid Access, Hey Jane, and Plan C, are pushing to boost usage of medication abortion and offer consumers with resources about how exactly to gain access to abortion pills.
But operating in the narrow, fraught confines of a post-Roe America is unlikely to yield the type of innovation that patients deserve, that investors and founders want, and that drives significant economic growth. Its a lot more likely that reproductive care will languish in comparison to other health tech fields where in fact the legal landscape is reasonable to navigate. This outcome is harmful to health and harmful to business.