Why aren’t VCs funding more menopause-focused startups? – Tech Crunch


In recent years, “femtech” has attracted increasing attention and venture capital funding, with dozens of startups springing up, from digital health apps to, more recently, medical companies. regenerative. Most of these offers are related to infertility, and it’s easy to see why. Among American women ages 15 to 49 with no previous births, 26% have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the CDC.

Yet Founders and Investors Are Slowly Seizing an Even Greater Opportunity in Menopause, which affects half the population and is becoming a concern as global demographics age, due, among other things, to a shift towards smaller families that began in the late 1960s and an increase in life expectancy. (Between 1980 and 2016, the average life expectancy at birth increased from 73.7 to 78.6 years).

The numbers suggest an opportunity. Indeed, according to recent 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, this number is expected to double to 1.5 billion people. That’s why we’re starting to see more companies catering to an older demographic, from reverse mortgage companies to senior home care service startups.

Yet menopause – which is clearly a huge market – continues to attract a trickle of investment dollars. According to data from Crunchbase, only a dozen startups that deal with menopause have attracted funding in the past 12 months.

The most recent of these is Vira Health, which provides personalized digital therapies for women going through menopause and this week announced a second round of funding ($12 million). The deal follows a $10 million funding round announced last month for HerMD, a company aiming to open offline centers focused on women’s sexual health and menopause (it currently operates two). . Gameto, a company that aims to delay or even eradicate menopause through regenerative medicine, meanwhile announced $20 million in funding in January.

Compared to dollars invested elsewhere, often in me-too businesses, that’s big change. This is even more shocking considering that women who are pre-menopausal, menopausal, or post-menopausal tend to be at the peak of their purchasing power.

In all honesty, there are plenty of reasons why investors might be hesitant, including the fact that many are men and will never experience menopause themselves. Indeed, most companies funded to date have received checks from female VCs.

There have been no “breakout” mainstream brands aimed at postmenopausal women.

While some of the costliest investments – the development of hormone replacement therapy – have proven to be highly rewarding for pharmaceutical companies, they have also been plagued with safety issues and the path to new drug deployment is strewn with challenges. chess. (Astellas, a Japanese-based multinational pharmaceutical company, may be the latest to miss a Phase 3 study in Asia.)

Still, investors looking for upside might take a closer look at menopause as a market. Advances in biology, computer science, automation and artificial intelligence in recent years are driving increasing interest in menopause from a wide range of stakeholders, including those focusing on regenerative medicine, which is the process of creating living, functioning tissue to repair or replace tissues or organs. function that is lost.

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 problems associated with menopause, including high blood pressure, heart disease and osteoporosis. . (Its CEO thinks women deserve a better quality of life for longer, given that they live longer.)

There is growing evidence to suggest that there may be more possibilities for treatments. For example, researchers are only beginning to realize the impact of menopause on women’s brains. “Many symptoms of menopause cannot be directly produced by the ovaries, if you think of hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, depression, insomnia, brain fog,” says Lisa Mosconi, associate professor of neurology. at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of her Women’s Brain Initiative, told the New York Times in July. “These are brain symptoms, and we should think of the brain as something that’s impacted by menopause at least as much as your ovaries.”

As for the lack of mainstream brands aimed at postmenopausal women — including brands that relieve signs and symptoms and help manage chronic conditions — they might be right around the corner.

One thing seems certain. It is an underserved market that is experiencing rapid growth and a wealthy target. Add to that the ability to get behind category-defining brands, and it’s fair to wonder: Why aren’t VCs — and founders, for that matter — focusing more on menopause?

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