In recent years, “femtech” has attracted increasing attention and venture funding, with the emergence of dozens of startups, from digital health apps to, more recently, regenerative medicine companies.
Most of those offers are related to infertility, and it’s easy to see why. Among US women ages 15 to 49 with no prior births, 26% having difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, founders and investors are slowly waking up to an even bigger opportunity in menopause., which affects half the population and is becoming a priority as world demographics age, due to, among other things, a shift toward smaller families that began in the late 1960s and an increase in the Life expectancy. (Between 1980 and 2016, the average life expectancy at birth increased from 73.7 to 78.6 years).
The numbers suggest opportunity. In fact, according to recent data from the United Nations data, the number of older people in the total population is increasing rapidly. In 2020 there were 727 million people aged 65 or over in the world; by 2050, that number is expected to double to 1.5 billion people. That’s why we’re starting to see a greater variety of companies catering to an older demographic, from the reverse mortgage type loan companies to home care services for the elderly Opening.
However, menopause, which is clearly a huge market, continues to attract a small number of investment dollars. According to data from Crunchbase, only a dozen startups addressing menopause have attracted funding in the last 12 months.
The most recent of them is Vira Health, which offers personalized digital therapies for women going through menopause and just this week announced a second round of financing ($12 million). The deal follows a $10 million round announced last month for HerMD, a outfit that aims to open offline centers focused on women’s sexual health and menopause (it currently operates two). Gameto, a company that aims to delay, and even eradicate, menopause through regenerative medicine, meanwhile announced $20 million in financing in January.
Compared to the dollars invested elsewhere, often in companies and myself, it’s a dumb change. It’s all the more shocking given that premenopausal, menopausal, or postmenopausal women tend to be at the height of their purchasing power.
There are many reasons why investors may be hesitant, including the fact that many are men and themselves never experience menopause. In fact, most of the companies funded to date have received checks from women venture capitalists.
There has been no “breakout” consumer brand catering to women experiencing menopause.
While some of the most expensive investments (the development of hormone replacement therapies) have proven highly profitable for pharmaceutical companies, they have also been plagued with safety issues and the road to roll out new drugs is fraught with failure. (Astellas, a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Japan, is perhaps the latest to change and miss in a phase 3 study in Asia).
Still, investors looking for an edge could take a closer look at menopause as a market. Advances in recent years in biology, computing, automation, and artificial intelligence are sparking growing interest in menopause from a wide range of stakeholders, including those focused on regenerative medicine, which is the process of creating living tissue. and functional to repair or replace tissues or organs. lost function.
Gameto, for example, which is backed by Future Ventures, hopes to use cell therapies to extend the time before the ovaries stop functioning as an organ to delay some of the health conditions associated with menopause, including blood pressure. discharge, heart disease and osteoporosis. . (Its CEO believes that women deserve a better quality of life for longer, given that they live longer lives.)
There is mounting evidence to suggest there may be more opportunities for treatments. For example, researchers are only now beginning to realize the impact of menopause on women’s brains.
“A lot of the symptoms of menopause can’t be directly caused by the ovaries, if you think about hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, depression, insomnia, brain fog,” says Lisa Mosconi, an associate professor of neurology. at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of its Women’s Brain Initiative, told the New York Times in July. “Those are brain symptoms, and we should see the brain as being affected by menopause at least as much as the ovaries.”
As for the lack of emerging consumer brands catering to women experiencing menopause, including brands that relieve signs and symptoms and help manage chronic conditions, they could be just around the corner.
One thing seems certain. It is a rapidly growing and target-rich underserved market. Throw in the opportunity to back category-defining brands, and it’s fair to ask: why aren’t venture capitalists, and founders, really, more focused on menopause?