Catch up on the Tech4Eva Opening Ceremony!
Recap Tech4Eva Opening Ceremony 2023 - Building on the success of its first two years, Tech4Eva, a unique international accelerator based in Switzerland unveiled its 2023 Start-up cohort on March 14th.
For this third edition, a selection committee chose 21 Femtech start-ups from 12 countries coming from a pool of 147 applications from Switzerland and around the world. Check them out here.
The Tech4Eva Opening Ceremony took place at partner Roche's headquarters in Kaiseraust near Basel and reunited 400+ ecosystem builders, investors, experts, entrepreneurs, corporations and academia to discuss women's healthcare. It was invigorating to see so many Femtech enthusiasts gathering together for the cause of improving women’s healthcare.
The event was kicked off by a keynote from Valerie Hepp Digital and PHC Partnering Europe and Asia Lead and Luca La Porta, Product Line Lead Ecosystems Solutions at Roche, who set the context by detailing how partnering with external players can close the women's health gap.
Louise Agersnap from the World Health Organization shared concrete examples of how to scale innovations and accelerate impact in global public health. As breast cancer is directly affected by innovation in health, the journalist Olivia Kinghorst moderated the panel discussion from the financing and data protection angle of bringing a solution to market. This panel included panelists: Silja Chouquet,Chief Commercial Officer at Artidis, Dr. Hossam Hadhoud, Health System Partner at Roche and Jérome Mariethoz, Director of Health and Prevention at Groupe Mutuel.
The secret ingredient: Collaboration
From the start, the emphasis was put on the importance of collaboration amongst pharmaceutical groups, researchers, start-ups, corporates, SMEs and individuals to tackle the Femtech challenges. Gabriel Baesu from Roche's XProject made it clear: "Innolab's ambition is to focus on women's health and especially partnering up with the external ecosystem. As the challenges related to this issue are too big to tackle, Roche itself or groups within Roche cannot do it alone". This showcases the importance of Tech4Eva's mission to develop a collaborative platform for Femtech start-ups. The connection between Roche's XProject and Tech4Eva, initiated by the EPFL Innovation Park and Groupe Mutuel, will create great synergies to support start-ups active in advancing women's health.
Global Health is a worldwide concern
This community has a moral imperative to challenge the pace of progress toward universal health, justice, and equity. For the 2023 edition, the start-ups are working mainly in Prevention, Pregnancy & Post-Partum, Fertility & Infertility, Mental Health, Menopause, Pelvic Floor & Vaginal Health. Tech4Eva has selected 16 start-ups for the main cohort, and they are all at different stages of development.
The need is even more urgent for affordable solutions in countries not benefiting from solid healthcare systems, thus, 5 Femtech start-ups were selected for the “Global South” cohort as a pilot. All five start-ups have the commonality of offering low costs Self-Scanning, Monitoring Devices, or Apps for better reproductive health. The selected start-ups will benefit from equity-free help, global reach, and ecosystem resources by integrating what has become "one of the largest Femtech accelerators in the world." says Lan Zuo Gillet of EPFL Innovation Park.
The number of applications is growing over the years showing the importance of a global accelerator in Femtech. Tech4Eva Alumni’s have managed to fundraise CHF 90 Million to date. How exciting! It shows investors' interest in the program, a program that has allowed alumni start-ups, with the help of our mentors and partners, to develop compelling solutions and to start filling the gap in women’s health!
Tech4Eva Alumni Highlight
You may wonder, what have they become? What real opportunities does Tech4Eva give to these selected start-ups? Let's have a closer look at our Alumni roster. With 58 start-ups having already participated in the program’s editions 2021 & 2022, Tech4Eva can count on some outstanding ones! To name a few stars: Embr Labs ranking amongst the 150 most promising digital start-ups worldwide, Woom Health was acquired by Apricity in 2022 to build the 1st virtual fertility clinic, and SeroMed Technologies won the most promising entrepreneur Award 2022 at viva AfricaArena Summit.
Progress from a partnership perspective
Partnering is vital to close the gap in women's health. The keynote speakers from Roche, Valerie Hepp, and Luca La Porta shared their perspective and detailed how to bring together partners and generate advancements in the healthcare space. In the healthcare ecosystem, giving the same opportunities and rights of representation while adapting policies improves people's quality of life and the patient's journey. According to Valerie Hepp, Roche's partnering team "aims to prioritize women's access to treatments and diagnostics around the globe, and has realized over 50 partnerships in 2022, of which 20 were in the space of personalized healthcare and digital towards women's health".
An example of one of their projects is the Pink Offices. Inspired in Kenya, initiated in Colombia, and implemented in Argentina, this experiment allowed 14,000 patients to get early screening for breast cancer. Indeed, power happens when technology is combined with science and digital transformation to bring value to discovering and managing diseases. Beyond Genomix's founder Myriam Merarchi well expressed this: "What's worse than having a medical condition? Not having a diagnostic". To provide adequate solutions, AI advancement must be coupled with bringing diversity into the discussion to avoid misdiagnosis while staying open-minded to change.
There is no change without awareness
Every change starts by being aware of the existing gap, which can then lead to a Call to Action. Well, this is what Tech4Eva is all about - Building an efficient Femtech ecosystem based on accurate data to create inclusive solutions. By "knowing that 70% of the population touched by the Alzheimer disease is female, it is not representative of the reality to have a clinical trial taking 50% of women and 50% of men." Says Luca La Porta. This example demonstrates the necessity to go beyond being "statistically meaningful" and to consider the gap by understanding and readjusting the data, which will build trust. Trust is needed to manage personalized information and focus on the patient's journey.
Valerie Hepp expressed, "as a company, we like to say that we are following the science, but we must recognize that science may have a bias conscious or not." To overcome this barrier, start-ups must ask themselves the following questions:
1. What exactly is the problem we are trying to solve?
2. Is this problem experienced similarly from women's and men's perspectives?
3. Is this problem experienced in the same way by different ethnicities?
4. How do we ensure we are inclusive while examining the problem?
5. Is our solution as inclusive as we think?
How to scale?
"It takes a whole ecosystem to scale and innovate", affirms Louise Agersnap, our third keynote speaker and head of the Innovation Hub at WHO. As we are behind in reaching the SDGs, more than business as usual is needed to reach the target by 2030. Innovation at scale is required. Indeed, there still needs to be a match between an impressive pipeline of solutions and the actual demand in countries. Even when there is a match between tools and needs, these innovations take time to scale.
This implies that improving solutions that can accelerate positive impact on public health and respond to a public sector demand still needs to be addressed. WHO's current strategy aims to accomplish this based on four pillars:
1. Curate: Prioritization of demand and supply based on data and evidence to channel innovation energies.
2. Convene: Convene stakeholders looking at the ecosystem and helping to improve the value chain so that innovations can come to fruition.
3. Capacity: Developing the capacity to facilitate innovation across three levels (Countries to Regions and Headquarters).
4. Codify: Set innovation management norms and standards and guide the WHO member states and other stakeholders.
This can be achieved via projects such as PROMPTS, a digital health platform connecting pregnant women and mothers through lifesaving advice via SMS. As the global health leader, WHO aims to upscale innovation with the help of governments while considering country-specific legislation. As perfectly expressed by Louise Agersnap, "It is not about innovation or fun. It is about equity in health. As a member state-driven organization, we have 194 member states and over 150 country offices with ongoing dialogue with Ministries of Health and other parts of government. We are the global health leader, setting these health agendas, norms, and standards and guiding member states on health matters based on evidence and science. We have the technical expertise and can help curate evidence-based solutions to global health problems, and also help work with our ministers to build up the capacity and ecosystems to help innovation to scale and thereby have more impact."
Let's examine the breast cancer case:
Considering country-specific systems, evolving technology and collaboration with traditional players is essential while researching and preventing breast cancer.
In 2023, and despite an increase in prevention, cancer is still one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, contributing to nearly one in six deaths even though 30% to 50% of cancers are preventable in theory. As mentioned by Olivia Kinghorst: "Every year, close to 10 million people die from cancer, and breast cancer is among the most common form of cancer, having a considerable direct and indirect impact". Prevention through a value-based healthcare system is the first step to addressing this issue. According to Jérome Mariethoz, Director of Health & Prevention at Groupe Mutuel: "Prevention is sometimes cheap and quite easy to do, much easier than the consequences down the chain; however, it represents only 2% of the money invested". This finding supports the idea of collaboration with the government and traditional players to come forward with solutions.
The question is: Why is breast cancer still at the top of diseases causing death, when there has been incredible publicity around breast cancer awareness? “Well, environmental factors, coupled with fears and stigma surrounding women's health, is leading to women not being proactive in getting diagnosed” according to Silja Chouquet.
Here's where Tech comes in! Artificial intelligence improves the efficiency and accuracy of diagnosis. It can avoid misdiagnosis, a win-win situation for all stakeholders as long as "doctors and healthcare professionals understand that technology is a supporting tool that will not replace them." -Dr. Hossam Hadhoud. As tech solutions exist, there is a need for a "revolution in the intersection of all of these technologies with the brilliant entrepreneurs to combine AI with the newest measures while ensuring their financing." – Silja Chouquet.
Indeed, to take Jérome Mariethoz's words, "it is insane in 2023 that half of the population is treated differently or not as good as it should”.
The motivation of the start-ups is incredible and we are looking forward to the 2023 edition and its solutions changing the landscape of Femtech one step at a time. We hope you will join the cause in improving Women’s health going forward.
To watch the full event recording, including the stage start-up pitches, go to the YouTube video recording here.