Meet the 2019 HITLAB Women’s Health Tech Challenge Winners
By HITLAB Staff
2019 HITLAB Women’s Health Tech Challenge Winners
From Left to Right: Savira Dargar - Women’s Health Tech Director at HITLAB, Kristina Cahoj - Kegg Founder, Kaitlin Maier - Reia Health Founder, Dorothee Goldman - Oratel Founder, and Yulia Silina, Researcher and Designer at LuulaTech.
NEW YORK, NY. January 13, 2020, The need is there and the market is huge—poised to reach more than $50 billion in five years—and finally, the tide is turning for women’s health technology. Four winners of the 2019 HITLAB Women’s Health Tech Challenge begin the new year with expanded resources, reach, awareness, and connections.
The winning innovations from companies around the United States were designed as new solutions to issues in the women’s health spectrum: fertility, breastfeeding, pelvic organ prolapse, and endometriosis. Read more about the innovations and how they ranked below.
“The Women’s Health Tech Challenge—HITLAB’s second World Cup event focused on the FemTech industry—was a tremendous success,” said Abby Stern, HITLAB Research Coordinator and Women’s Health Tech Challenge Manager. Held on Thursday, Dec. 5, at SAP’s Innovation Space in NYC, the event drew a crowd of professionals from the fields of healthcare, science, technology, entrepreneurship, and venture capital.
First-prize winner Kaitlin Maier, founder of Reia Health, appreciated the industry exposure drawn from the event. “The HITLAB Challenge connected us with a network of medical professionals, regulatory consultants, and legal experts who were enthusiastic about our innovation,” she said. “We look forward to working with members of this new network to refine our business and regulatory strategies in order to make the greatest impact with our pessary.” Reia is developing a novel collapsible pessary that is designed for comfort and enables women to self-manage their pelvic-organ prolapse.
Spotlight on Femtech
With an emphasis on sharp focus and air-tight design, the four finalists each presented a five-minute live pitch, followed by five minutes of Q&A. Judges included representatives from Merck’s Global Health Innovation Fund, McKinsey Consulting, RG+A, P&G Ventures, SAP, and SteelSky Ventures.
“The presentations were impressive and intense,” said Savira Dargar, Challenge Director. “Each of the products presented have great promise for empowering women to mitigate discomfort and improve health outcomes in cost-effective ways, and all deserve to succeed.”
Vanessa Liu of SAP kicked off the event, and presenters represented different elements of the health innovation ecosystem, including Alice Zheng and Eli Weinberg, of McKinsey Consulting; Prem Tumkosit, of Merck’s Global Health Innovation Fund; Allison Wils and Catherine Pugh, of Horizon Government Affairs; and Ali Spiro, of RG+A.
The Winners and Their Awards
1st Place: Reia Health, Hanover, NH
Award: $10,000 prize, sponsored by Merck Global Health Innovation Fund
Reia’s novel collapsible pessary enables women to self-manage pelvic-organ prolapse, a condition that affects 50% of women over the age of 50. Current non-surgical treatment options are painful or impossible for women to use without the assistance of a practitioner, limiting women’s independence and requiring regular time-intensive and costly doctor appointments.
“Before going to market, we need to collect clinical data to submit to the FDA for clearance of our pessary,” Maier explained. “Our Women’s Health Tech Challenge win will allow us to manufacture the pessaries necessary for these trials and continue development of our digital platform.”
2nd Place: kegg, San Francisco, CA
Award: An exclusive workshop with Fuel, a McKinsey Company serving startups
The inaugural product from a women-centric company, Kegg is a fertility kegel device that collects and analyzes previously difficult-to-attain data from a woman’s cervical fluid to better diagnose and monitor fertility cycles. In the U.S. alone, infertility affects 1 in 10 women—6.1 million—and the number is rising. The device may quadruple the chances of natural conception and replace the pill for pregnancy planning.
“From puberty to pregnancy to menopause, all aspects of the female patient experience are being reinvented for women, by women,” said Kristina Cahoj, Kegg founder. “We will use the McKinsey sponsored award to draft our growth strategy for the first year.”
3rd Place: Oratel Diagnostics’ ENDO-TEK, Hammondsport, NY
Award: The Health Innovation Alliance’s Women’s Health Tech Innovator Award, including Alliance membership and strategic counsel from Horizon Government Affairs
Oratel’s ENDO-Tek is the only saliva-based, easy-to-use, low-cost diagnostic for endometriosis that gives instant results at the time of testing. Endometriosis, a painful disorder resulting in abnormal tissue growth affecting 10% of all women, costs the U.S. health system more than $15 billion and continues to be undertreated because the current diagnosis is an invasive and costly laparoscopy. ENDO-Tek has demonstrated over 84% sensitivity and up to 92% specificity in three studies.
“The energy and inspiration HITLAB provided, made me realize that there are real people who make a difference to startup companies,” said Dorothee Goldman, Founder at Oratel. “We are following up with the new connections and are delighted to be able to benefit from Health Innovation Alliance program for women’s health.”
4th Place: LuulaTech’s LuulaPump, Brooklyn, NY
Award: HITLAB Breakthrough Alliance, 25 hours of the accelerator’s services, which include research and testing
LuulaPump by LuulaTech is a revolutionary science-based wearable breast-milk pump: spill proof, dishwashable, and intuitively used with one hand, allowing gentle and discreet pumping in public and in any position. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies are fed breast-milk until two years of age. Most mothers try it, but by 6 months, 75% feed formula to babies because existing breast pumps are conspicuous, uncomfortable, unintuitive, painful, isolating, and degrading.
“We are using human-centered design, so setting up appropriate user-testing and getting FDA approvals right is of an essence, as is having legal support in helping us refine our language and IP strategy,” explained Yulia Silina, Researcher and Designer at LuulaTech. “But even aside from presenting and receiving awards, it was exciting to be in a space with such spectacular views, surrounded by people who are also so passionate about innovation in health tech. Meeting investors, new friends, and potential collaborators was simply invaluable.”