Startup Tri-Valley is teaming up with women-led venture capital firm Avestria to present a virtual talk about innovations in women's health and opportunities to support them.
The April 25 event titled "The Unseen Opportunity in Women's Health" will feature remarks from Linda Greub, co-founder/managing partner of Avestria Ventures, and Yolanda Fintschenko, executive director of i-GATE Innovation Hub & Startup Tri-Valley, followed by a "fireside chat" with Tracy Dooley, a partner at Avestria Ventures and Neil Ray, founder and CEO of San Ramon-based Raydiant Oximetry.
Raydiant Oximetry is one of the companies focusing on advancing women's health that Avestria invests in. The company specializes in developing a safe, noninvasive fetal pulse oximeter that measures fetal oxygen levels, allowing health care providers to make better-informed decisions and provide improved patient care.
According to Ray -- an anesthesiologist by trade -- the current technology used to measure fetal health has existed for 60 years and has seen very little innovation in that time. "Ultimately, this technology has the accuracy of a coin toss in predicting fetal distress," Ray said in an interview with Livermore Vine.
He added that many of the false alarms predicted by the current technology result in unnecessary cesarean procedures. Another consequence of the poor functionality of the current technology, according to Ray, is that it fails to identify babies in distress which leads to many of them developing brain injuries and cerebral palsy.
Ray said his company's technology, called Lumerah, has already been proven effective in a small clinical trial and they are currently raising Series B funding to conduct a larger clinical study, which would be used for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The idea to host a webinar focused on innovation in women's health was sparked by a Startup Tri-Valley podcast episode that featured Greub and Dooley who discussed Raydiant Oximetry's work and the overall need to bring women's health to the forefront.
"I think through these conversations there's been this realization that we need to celebrate and highlight this innovation and the lack of innovation in this space," Ray said.
Fintschenko -- who is also one of three newly appointed Livermore planning commissioners -- said that in her work with Startup Tri-Valley, what especially attracted her to Avestria is that they've recognized that the unseen opportunities in women's health make it a profitable market.
"Side-by-side there's the injustice in women's health being so ignored from a funding and technical perspective and at the same time they've seen something that other people haven't seen. They've seen the unmet need and they recognize from a business standpoint that this is an incredibly good business decision," Fintschenko said of Avestria.
"I feel like a lot of times when we talk about meeting an underserved community, the appeal is to justice. And I'm not saying we shouldn't work to create a more equitable and just world but at the same time, what I think is so important about Avestria and their thesis is that it's profitable and I think that's really important that this isn't just a hat-in-hand kind of appeal but this is more like, if you don't follow their lead you could miss the boat on solving important problems that have a real market and miss the opportunity entirely," she added.
Avestria is based in San Francisco, with East Bay offices in Lafayette and Berkeley. The firm invests in a number of companies in the women's health and life science spaces.
Greub and Dooley emphasized that Avestria's portfolio consists of businesses that provide purpose-built solutions to unmet needs, which includes Raydiant Oximetry.
"Raydiant is really the gem in our portfolio because I really believe that every hospital birth in the world will eventually use the Lumerah product," she said, noting that she does not consider herself to be a particularly optimistic person but she is about this technology.
"As a mom, if this had existed back when I was about to give birth and I knew it was out there, I would absolutely want this. Nothing is higher for a mom than the stakes having to do with their unborn child," Greub said.
Ray echoed similar sentiments from his perspective as someone with firsthand experience in the medical field. "Our development is somewhat timely with what's going on in our country. Today, in the United States, we have the highest maternal mortality of any developed nation and it's sickening to think that we're still in this situation and it's getting worse and it's been estimated that four out of five women that die during childbirth -- it's preventable," Ray said, adding that the disparity is even larger among women of color and women experiencing poverty.
According to statistics shared in the event description, "Women's health is a market that is hiding in plain sight of investors. Women are 80% of the health care workforce, make 80% of household health care decisions and spend 29% more per-capita on health care than men -- yet only 4% of all (Research & Development) goes specifically to their health care products and needs and only about 1% of all venture capital healthcare funding goes to women's health."
The inequality in health care is not only seen in reproductive health but applies to all aspects of women's health including diagnosis and treatment for cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, which will also be discussed among the conversation topics.
In addition to highlighting Raydiant's work to exemplify a successful innovation in women's health, the webinar will address how health care practice and life science has defaulted to men -- to the detriment of women and their health -- and how stakeholders can start improving women's health today.
It will also cover what investors focus on women's health and what spaces and innovations they find exciting as well as what startups looking to innovate in the women's health space should look for in terms of attracting investors, getting funding and avoiding common pitfalls and challenges.
The event is set for April 25 from 11 a.m. to noon and is free with registration. To register, visit Eventbrite.