Friday Q&A: FemTech Focus’s Barreto discusses innovations in women’s health and funding challenges

Brittany Barreto, Executive Director of FemTech Focus, is dedicated to improving women’s health through her work by supporting investment and innovation in the FemTech sector. She sees the women’s health space as ripe for investment due to historical underfunding and underrepresentation in medical research and product development.

Through her three-year-old nonprofit and the venture fund Coyote Ventures that sprang up 10 million dollars from investors incl Bank of America, the Ph.D. in Molecular and Human Genetics is helping to create an ecosystem dedicated to treating conditions that are unique to women, women and girls, or that affect them disproportionately or differently.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MedTech Dive: What exactly is FemTech?

Brittany Barreto: The term was coined by Ida Tin. She is the founder of Clue, a period tracking app. She said it at a conference in New York City in 2016 because she was trying to describe how there are these unique barriers to innovation in women’s health. And just calling it health tech is a disservice because we face so many unique caveats and roadblocks that other medtech companies don’t have to contend with. Essentially, she said, it’s FemTech.

At FemTech Focus, we actually set the definition in 2020 as solutions to conditions that exclusively affect women, women and girls disproportionately or differently. And so with that definition you now include things like heart disease, which manifests differently in our bodies, or autoimmune diseases, which affect us disproportionately.

Why is the time right for innovation in women’s health technology?

We believe there are three main reasons why FemTech is on the rise now. First, over 90% of our founders are women. And that’s a really interesting statistic because it’s not a requirement to be a woman to start a women’s health business. But it is mostly women who start these companies.

What we’re finding is that the rise of women in STEM and finance has led to an increase in the number of women’s health companies founded. Most of our founders are engineers or software programmers or medical professionals, or investors or business professionals, women who are fed up with the status quo and now have the skills to do something about it.

And then the second reason, COVID has really shown us all that not everyone gets the same healthcare based on your race, your zip code. Then when we add things like gender or sex, people started saying, “Oh, I heard about that,” and so it’s easier to talk about the fact that you can go to the same hospital, but depending on who you are There are various health services available to you.

And then, historically, women have been excluded from scientific research and healthcare innovation because they failed to balance their hormones. But now we live in a world with AI drones on Mars and are able to take hormone fluctuations into account.

What is FemTech Focus doing to solve this problem?

We have two missions. The first is to raise awareness of the need for gender-responsive innovation in healthcare. and [the second] is to support the founders with innovations in this area. We do this through four main mechanisms. We have a podcast, virtual community, market research reports and events. We have an annual summit. I’m often asked to contribute some thought leadership around the markets. And we have the largest database of FemTech startups and exits and publish reports on market size, activity and trends.

Part of our mission to help founders innovate in space is to connect them to funding opportunities. Therefore, these heartfelt introductions, educating founders on fundraising strategies, assisting with their pitch decks, and also the market research reports we publish are helpful to founders in fundraising. And then also useful for investors to convince them that they should invest in FemTech.

Are there many grants for FemTech startups?

Friday Q&A: FemTech Focus’s Barreto discusses innovations in women’s health and funding challenges

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