Changes to hormones affect many aspects of people’s lives. Especially those with vulvas. From puberty to perimenopause, understanding personal hormone cycles can offer intuitive insight and help with any endocrine experience, not just with fertility.
People with amenorrhea or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and other period-affecting conditions, along with trans and nonbinary folk, do not have affordable access to tech that can track their hormones at home. While cultural conversations and perceptions around gender are starting to change, pregnancy is not everyone’s end goal—even though it’s big business right now. Last year, $854.5 million was invested into fertility tech companies, compared to $305.7 million in 2017 and $134 million in 2012. For those looking to gain insight and collect data on their hormonal cycle (for general health queries, not ovulation) they simply have to log symptoms. Eli has the potential to change that.
Eli is the Montreal-based health tech company on a mission to make hormone health accessible. This April it announced successfully raising 5 million CAD ($3,672,258) in new capital to drive its next phase of growth—its diverse group of healthcare and technology investors, such as Muse Capital, RH Capital, and Cake Ventures, all focus on the underserved women’s health market. And interestingly, Eli Health's total funding to date ($6.6 million or $9 million CAD) is the largest amount ever raised by a Canadian femtech firm with a female CEO, as well as the second-largest overall in the women's health category in the country.
"Hormones have an enormous impact on women's health. Yet they remain a black box. We are unlocking that box so that women can have data at their fingertips to make informed decisions daily and own their overall health," said CEO and co-founder Marina Pavlovic Rivas.
What makes this launch intriguing is the possibility for Eli to be an essential tool for those without menstrual cycles. There are apps such as Hormona on the market that can act as a personal hormone assistant. Hormona sends daily reminders and evidence-based, scientific advice and strategies to cope with any imbalances or symptoms; however, its cishet sensibility can be off-putting to LGBTQ+ individuals. Just like most of the femtech innovations that make it to the production phase.
But how does it work? After years of R&D, Eli's scientific and engineering breakthrough not only makes continuous hormone monitoring possible by simply testing minuscule amounts of hormones in saliva, it also aims to ensure its product is launched at an affordable price for long-term use at home. "The process of measuring hormones is incredibly complex,” continues Rivas. “Eli makes it accessible to users in three simple steps: collect a tiny amount of saliva, insert the test in the palm-sized reader, and get results in minutes on the app." Not only will Eli be accessible and affordable, the company also plans to utilize its datasets for good—to help close the medical gender gap. "We see this technology as the missing bridge between the biological and the digital," adds Rivas. "It will allow us to build a large-scale longitudinal dataset of daily hormone levels for the first time in history. Filling this major data gap will help medical and research communities address previously unaddressable needs."
With the women's digital health market anticipated to grow at nearly 20% CAGR until 2035 (according to Roots Analysis’ recent report), there’s certainly a demand for technological innovations such as these. The data also demonstrates that close to $3.5 billion has been invested in femtech since 2012 and nearly 200 femtech products or solutions are on the market or under development, yet 60% of these focus on fertility and 43% on the menstrual cycle. More solutions deftly designed to cater to LGBTQ+ bodies (as well as the bodies of those who do not menstruate and/or do not wish to reproduce) are needed.
Inclusive health tech companies do exist. There’s digital healthcare platform Folx, which provides gender-affirming care and specialized hormone therapy for the LGBTQ+ community, along with at-home testing kits to aid in monitoring. Saliva testing also exists: Oova offers an at-home hormone monitoring system that tracks hormone levels using saliva; however, samples have to be sent back to a lab for testing (and its marketing only addresses women looking to get pregnant, further illustrating the industry's lack of inclusivity).
In the UK, more than 250,000 people identify as transgender—over in the US, roughly 1.2 million people identify as nonbinary. Globally, one in 10 women and people assigned female at birth suffer from PCOS, and one in four is likely to experience amenorrhea at some point in their lives. There are more than enough humans whose hormone health looks and works differently than the norm. And with the wider women’s health market said to be worth $50 billion by 2025, along with the digital health market, estimated to hit $221 billion by 2026, there’s money to be made from more inclusive health tech solutions.
Eli demonstrates a step in the right direction.
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