Initiative to develop women-centric products has ‘potential to enable a more equal healthcare system’

A new initiative to support and develop women-focused, tech-enabled health products has “the potential to enable a more egalitarian health system”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.

Women make up half the population, but less than 2% of global investment has focused on women’s health research, providing a huge untapped market for entrepreneurs and opportunities to improve women’s health care, an event at University College Cork promoting Irish femtech.

Ireland can create a rich ecosystem for femtech – technology designed for women’s health and wellbeing – said Dr Tanya Mulcahy, Director of Health Innovation Hub Ireland.

Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchases and are key health care decision-makers for themselves and their families, the conference said.

Health Innovation Hub Ireland aims to stimulate and support the development of high potential new products, services and start-ups in femtech.

These solutions aim to impact women’s health and wellbeing, create an Irish femtech focus and create an ecosystem of experts and entrepreneurs supporting, driving and innovating in femtech.

It will also aim to support the drive to increase the number of female founders and attract more investors to Ireland (over 70% of femtech companies had female founders).

Professor John Higgins of University College Cork Maternity Hospital said patients are demanding in their healthcare. He believed that female patients would be extremely enthusiastic about developments in femtech, while femtech could help solve health problems.

Participants at the Femtech @ Health Innovation Hub Ireland launch conference at UCC. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

He noted that older women, aged 50 to 65, had been particularly neglected in health care. “If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re looking for ideas, there’s a big void,” he said.

Paula Newell of AVeta medical is one of those entrepreneurs filling this gap. She said women’s health has been underfunded and underresearched for too long.

Her company has developed a way to treat vaginal atrophy, also known as vaginal dryness, which more than 80% of women over 50 suffer from, she said.

Women describe feeling like they have sandpaper between their legs when walking or sitting on a bonfire, she said.

The condition impacts their daily lives, relationships and confidence, she said.

But their product, which is non-hormonal, is based on the science of wound healing to regenerate vaginal tissue.

“We want to bring women back to the life they lived,” she said.

Mr Martin, speaking via video address, welcomed the launch of the new femtech initiative at Health Innovation Hub Ireland.

“This new femtech initiative has the potential to help build a more equal healthcare system,” he said.

“Historically, development and investment in women-only health technologies has accounted for only 2% of total investment.”

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