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World Contraception Day: What it means to be a FemTech company today

The 26th of October is World Contraception Day, a global day of recognition of the importance of family planning in the lives of people.

This day was established with the goal to increase contraceptive knowledge and empowering young people to make educated decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. With the aim to honour this day, let us introduce a FemTech company, Carbomed Medical Solutions GmbH and their product,  breathe ilo, a device that detects a woman’s fertile days via breath analysis. Carbomed participated last year (2020) in our Start-ups Meet Pharma program.

We asked Bastian Rüther, co-founder of Carbomed Medical Solutions GmbH, to share his thoughts about this day as well as to give some insights into the reasons and challenges of having a product targeted at the FemTech market.

 

Generally, Femtech refers to products, software and services that use technology to focus on the health of women. You developed a breath analysis device that can detect a woman´s fertile days. What inspired you to develop a product targeted at the Femtech market and what special meaning does it have for your company?

The initial inspiration came from a meeting with our CO-Founder Prof. Dr. Ludwig Wildt from the University Clinic Innsbruck. He did dedicate several years of research in the field of CO2 monitoring during the female cycle to determine the most fertile days. Several members of our team have had cases of unfulfilled desire to have children in their own family, so we were very eager to support all couples with the desire to have children with the game-changing method. To achieve that we needed to be very creative in developing an affordable breath analyzer for the end-consumer. Only breathing into a breath analyzer for 60 seconds per day is so much easier than any other method available on the market. In the meantime, we extended our focus far beyond the desire to have children. By being heavily in contact with our breathe ilo community, we figured out that we would create great value by supporting women to guide them during their cycle because this is a very powerful new wellness and fitness trend.

 

The state of the Femtech market is continuously changing and does probably not look the same now as the time you entered it. What would your suggestions be for those, planning to enter the Femtech market as well?

We think the time has now come to enter the fast-growing Femtech market. While the market was almost non-existent a few years ago, things are changing quite fast and even though the funding situation is not comparable to other health markets yet, we can see the Femtech industry getting there. So, it is a great time to start and help us and other ambitious players in the market collectively work on closing the huge gender data gap that still exists today.

 

Building up a successful business is challenging and companies usually meet obstacles along the path. Which challenges did you have to face during the development of your product?

We faced quite some challenges during this process. It took us about five years from starting the first research and prototyping work to have a serial product available that has the same performance as expensive CO2 breath analyzers at a fraction of the costs, to become affordable for end-consumers. In the beginning, the challenges were more on the technical feasibility side and it needed several generations of prototypes to develop a precise product. Further down the road, the challenges shifted more to funding challenges, because large sums are necessary when reaching the phase of transferring a prototype to a serial product and fewer grants are available at this later stage. Another continuous challenge in our product development is, that the female cycle lasts for about one month. So, generating clinical data lasts much longer than in most other fields, because it is necessary to track several cycles of each individuum.

 

According to the Femtech Landscape Report 2021, Femtech is not a Niche market anymore, based on the estimated women´s health market size. What are your thoughts about this development?

We can clearly feel the change of femtech which was seen as a tiny niche only a very short while ago. Overall, we highly welcome this development, because it increases the appetite of investors for the market and we expect the funding situation that is still far-off in comparison to other industries will improve over the next couple of years. These funds will help to close the proven gender data gap (much less research on the female body exists than on men) and bring valuable innovative products to more than 50% of the population. Furthermore, with more opportunities in the femtech industry, this might even bring up more female entrepreneurs, who can highly identify themselves with the problems solved in femtech.

 

World Contraception Day puts a focus on women´s health and therefore FemTech companies, drawing attention to their importance. What is your personal message to the audience regarding World Contraception Day?

I would like to use World Contraception Day to point out, that hormonal contraception for women is still the dominant form of contraception globally. However, all the side effects are not yet researched in detail and ever more evidence of side effects of those long-term hormonal treatments are found. We want to make all users of hormonal contraception products aware of that fact and we promise that we will dedicate a lot of effort to working on a hormonal-free contraception method via breath analysis.