The length of time needed for femtech startups to conduct studies to support their technologies is deterring venture capital (VC) firms from investing, according to Jess Jackson, investment manager at Praetura Ventures. VC firms expect a return on investment within five years of investment and if companies need to conduct long studies before designing devices the whole process can take over 5 years before commercialisation, making these companies ineligible to receive VC funding.

Women’s health and femtech were at the forefront of discussions at the 2023 pro-manchester Health Tech Conference in Manchester on 1 December. The North American women’s health market is forecasted to be worth $170.4m in 2025, as per GlobalData analysis.

GlobalData is the parent company of Clinical Trials Arena.

Dr Jan Rogers, CEO of Agile Life Sciences, highlighted that the data regarding female-specific health conditions is often incomplete or of low quality. The situation is worsened by the lack of inclusion of women in clinical trials, with women on contraceptive and hormone treatment often being excluded from most trials. With a vast majority of women commonly receiving either contraceptive or hormone treatment, the trial data is often not reflective of the general population the drug or device is indicated for, added Dr Rogers.

Health apps are not the answer to every health problem

Another theme that was discussed at the conference was the relationship of individuals with health apps. Lucy Patel, founder, and CEO of Lucy Patel Nutrition, highlighted that the rigidity of health apps can cause feelings of guilt and shame in its users. She gave an example of how multiple prompts from these apps to complete a task can demotivate a user and reduce compliance.

Andre Fialho, product lead at MySense.Ai, stated that digital technologies can help increase health accessibility but there is a need for greater transparency and validation for these applications. Adding that not all health apps are equal and that there needs to be a system in place whereby patients can look for approved health apps and see the clinical data validating the same.

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Fialho noted that new technologies such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) can help in improving digital interfaces but one should be careful regarding the hype surrounding these. Jon Davies, behavioural science expert and founder of Leafyard, stated that the introduction of new technology is usually associated with ‘pomp and circumstance’ but there is a lack of follow-up associated with these to ensure long-term integration and use.