By Anna Dé, Member of the WBP Executive Committee
As we count the weeks to the International Forum on Women’s Brain and Mental Health: The Gateway to Precision Medicine Across our Lifespan, which will be held virtually on 19 and 20 September 2020, I was delighted to be able to attend the FemTech Forum on behalf of the Women’s Brain Project (WBP). It was a fantastic virtual event that took place on 25 June 2020.
The FemTech Forum, organised by Women of Wearables, was a celebration of innovation in women’s health, spotlighting tech-powered solutions and products that are changing our everyday lives for the better.
A wide range of topics were discussed, from privacy and innovation to designing products for modern women, investing in FemTech, fertility, sexual health, and the gender gap in medical research.
The highlight of the day for us at WBP was the panel discussion on The Gender Gap in Medical Research.
The Panel, moderated by Laura Lovett from MobiHealthNews, brought together the following speakers:
- Jill Angelo, Founder and CEO of Gennev
- Ilka Schellschmidt, Head of Women’s Health Clinical Development and trained OB/GYN at Bayer
- Helene Guillaume, founder and CEO of WILD.AI
- Dr. Brittany Barreto, co-founder and Executive Director of FemTech Focus
It wasn’t until 1994 that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US mandated the inclusion of women in clinical trials. Although progress has been made, we still have a long way to go.
Ilka Schellschmidt highlighted the historic progress made in female representation in clinical trials. However, further progress is needed. The gender data gap remains a big issue.
Jill Angelo stated that “One thing we’ve learned about women in menopause is we don’t know much about them. There hasn’t been a lot of research on them, nor have we looked at the hormonal changes that are happening in their bodies related to their risk of cardiovascular disease, or dementia, or Alzheimer’s, or bone health.”
The need for diversity in terms of of age, ethnicity or socioeconomic income, as well as sex and gender was also highlighted by Helene Guillaume.
Barriers still need to be overcome. Gender representation in the scientific community was highlighted as a bottleneck. Ilka Schellschmidt stated: “If cardiologists are male and white, they will study male white patients.”
Dr. Brittany Barreto explained how the use of new technologies were being explored to mitigate the risks of women of childbearing age participating in trials.
Finally, the panel agreed that supporting women throughout the life course – from puberty, first contraceptive needs, then family planning, up and until menopause, and beyond – represents a great opportunity for both pharma and digital health to come together in partnership and find solutions.
At last year’s WBP Forum, one of the panels focused on “Enrollment and retention of women in clinical trials”. Among other things, it covered some of the underlying reasons for limited female participation in clinical trials, and possible solutions. As WBP considers this a key issue to improve research and results reflecting sex and gender differences in brain and mental health, it is a conversation we were thrilled to see continued at this year’s FemTech Forum.
More such conversations will be curated at our virtual International Forum on Women’s Brain and Mental Health 2020 in September. We can’t wait to have you join us!
Interested in reading more about the intersection of WBP’s work and #womenintech? Our co-founders were recently interviewed by the CEO of Women of Wearables, Marija Butkovic. Read the resulting article here.