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Exploring the latest innovations in the femtech sector

Article-Exploring the latest innovations in the femtech sector

© AdobeStock/Nadia L/ Exploring the latest innovations in the femtech sector
From at-home hormone testing to biohacking via wearable devices, we look at some of the latest innovations in the female health sector showcased at the London Femtech Lab conference this month.

Femtech Lab held its first ever full-day conference in London in June at the Wellcome Collection. Perhaps best known for its Startup Accelerator programme, which just completed its fifth cohort, Femtech Lab describes itself as the global ecosystem of startups, experts, and investors in women’s health and wellness. 

Focus on increased personalisation and proactive health

The conference explored overall wellness, menstruation, fertility, menopause, sex, healthy ageing, and mental health. Co-founders Kalia Lang and Karina Vazirova kicked off the event by positing that the archetype of the woman of the future is full of “vitality”. 

Technology aimed at increased personalisation and proactive rather than reactive health took centre stage. Helen O’Neill, co-founder of Hertility and senior lecturer at UCL in reproductive and molecular genetics, addressed declining human fertility, saying there was a need to gain a better understanding of women’s hormones and to bridge the data gap that exists in medical trials and research specific to women. Hertility’s at-home hormone and fertility test is one of the ways this company is looking to transform women’s healthcare.

This data gender gap was a recurring theme throughout the day’s discussions. In a panel on psychedelics and their therapeutic potential, neuroscientist and founder of Hystelica, Grace Blest-Hopley – lamenting the serious lack of information specific to female biology – said “women are not little men, not a sub-group”.

A mixed bag of innovation

The panel on medical technology and diagnostics was a mixed bag of innovation: from tampons delivering oestrogen and progesterone more effectively than other delivery methods (Calla Lily Clinical Care) and the work of the all-digital Cleveland Clinic to a captivating look at the work of research consortium Charité Berlin, which is developing a wearable womb to replace incubators, enabling mothers and premature babies to stay close and for these highly vulnerable newborns to be in a familiar and friendly environment.

Former rugby player and triathlete Helene Guillaume, founder of Wild AI, gave an energised keynote on biohacking. Its app is designed to support an active woman through all life stages and syncs with popular wearables.

It was one of many apps, devices, and home tests presented throughout the day, including Oura from Finland. Oura’s ring monitors activity and the analysis of the data uses 20 biometric signals to offer a holistic picture of “sleep, readiness, and activity”.

© AdobeStock/ryanking999Exploring the latest innovations in the femtech sector

A few voices of caution were heard on and off the stage about “upskilling” consumers through technology; there were questions around the risk of inaccurate period trackers and other devices giving false results, while a number of GPs voiced concerns about self-testing and constant monitoring leading to “overtreatment” and how to manage medical care after self-diagnosis systemically.

Highlighting the value of accessible healthcare education

The panel of GPs and social content creators shifted the spotlight to the importance of accessible healthcare information and education. It included Dr Aziza Sesay (Talks with Dr Sesay), who spoke at Vitafoods Europe this year; she delivers upbeat and informative posts on YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms using fun props to illustrate how the female body works and to wipe out the taboos around talking about it.

Also present was Dr Brooke Vandermolen, UCLH NHS, co-founder of the Birth Collective, who shares insights with consumers through her platform, @theobgynmum. The interplay between the medical community and technical innovation was also discussed in “Robo doctors versus real doctors”, exploring the use of AI and the ethical issues it raises. This discussion included Evolwe AI, a deep-tech company “creating an AI-companion based on empathetic AI technology”.