Deep tech for women: How science is transforming women’s lives

As we are writing this, we are 7,606, 858,128 people on this Earth… and counting! Roughly half of that ever-growing number is women. Although their experiences vary wildly depending on where they live on the planet, women are still facing similar challenges due to their sex, be it health issues, age, day-to-day lives or maternity. And for the most part, solutions for these issues have been roughly the same for decades!

Luckily deeptech isn’t just about fancy robots exploring Mars or the almighty AI transforming our industries. Innovation in science and technology is also about improving everyday life, for example, after a traumatic surgery or developing a contraceptive method that doesn’t pump your body with hormones.

Several startups are now focusing on answering the need for tailored solutions (and it’s about time too!). Let’s take a look at what’s cooking in the labs around the world. Yeah, walking on the moon is mind-blowing, but what about the fact that we could improve the lives of 3.5 billion people?

Helping breast cancer survivors

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world, with an estimated 1.67 million new cancer cases diagnosed each year. The country where you live doesn’t matter; if you are a woman, there’s 1 in 8 chance on average that you will develop breast cancer over your 80-year lifespan. Bleak, we know.

Fortunately, entrepreneurs are working hard to find solutions to better detect cancer, alleviate pain and side effects and help women to live better lives after surgery or chemotherapy.

Learning to cope with a physically changed body is something taxing and yet is entirely part of the recovery process. Startup SOMAVAC helps patients recover from an invasive surgery such as mastectomy. Their small device may allow patients to forego postop drains earlier, thus making their recovery more comfortable without having to lug around heavy medical equipment.

Tensive, an Italian startup still in its early stages, is also on board to help with the recovery process: their concept focuses on the reconstructive surgery and aims at giving patients a valid alternative to silicone implants. By stimulating the regeneration of natural fat, Tensive’s prostheses are designed to be slowly degraded and replaced by the patient’s fat tissue, reducing the number of surgeries needed.

Similarly, two startups Novothelium and Bio-aesthetics are both working on improving the nipple reconstruction by using regenerative medicine. By creating a tissue-engineered matrix, their technology allows for better sensation and natural pigmentation.

Improving contraception and periods

Access to feminine products can sometimes be an impossible task for women in vast areas of the world. Enter Saathi, who has gained international fame for their biodegradable sanitary pads. Their fibre-processing technology is converting banana fibres into a soft super-absorbent, without the use of chemicals. Plus, their #oneMillionPads program is providing hygiene products in rural parts of India. And of course, we are proud that they were the Grand Winner of the Hello Tomorrow Challenge 2017!

Contraception is also part of the daily life of many women. Good news! The Swedish early-stage startup Circle is developing new gel-like contraceptives that can be as efficient as current ones but without all the annoying hormonal side-effects. Watch this space for their latest updates!

Supporting fertility tests and maternity

Each day, an estimated 370,000 women become mothers on planet Earth. And let’s be honest, it’s no easy feat. The maternal care system is quite efficient in developed countries but less developed countries are facing health challenges and are sometimes unable to provide proper care to expectant women, especially when living in poor or isolated areas. 
Momoby, a startup founded in the Imperial-Althea program, has decided to address this pressing issue by creating an easy-to-use, affordable prenatal testing kit, enabling women and healthcare workers to follow the pregnancy better and reduce risks.

But what about the wannabe-moms? The Fertilome test is the first fertility that is harnessing the power of DNA-analysis to study a woman’s reproductive health and fertility, scanning for 49 variants across 32 genes, targeting specific risks for endometriosis, early menopause and other disorders, thus allowing women to make more informed decisions about their future. Despite the cost of DNA testings, having that option is a sign of progress for women everywhere.

Today is the International Women’s day, let’s also celebrate all the entrepreneurs and researchers that are working every day to make women’s lives healthier and easier!