Berlin-based Clue was one of the early companies in the femtech world. Founded in 2012, to date it has raised just under $30 million. Today it named Dr. Lynae Brayboy its first chief medical officer.
A trained OBGYN, with a specialty in reproductive endocrinology and fertility, Brayboy has a long history of working in women’s health and a track record of studying femtech products.
“When I was having my training there was no such thing as femtech, so individuals would come into office hours and have complaints or issues and would have to rely on recollection or misinformation. I think femtech just broadened the reach of healthcare, and it also improves education,” she said.
Specifically, she said that when it comes to the fertility space, there is a lot of false news floating around, and digital tools could help curb the spread.
“There’s a lot of bad information on websites. Clue prides itself on providing science-based accurate information and we want to be a trusted source for women,” she said. “I think our position is that we can help alleviate some of that anxiety because of what we offer on our website, and also through our app – and help women feel as though they can ask questions that are informed when they actually go to a specialist or go to a physician, so that they are not spending time – which is very valuable, if you are suffering from infertility – trying to find out information. They can get the information, have a directed conversation with their provider, and then have actual plans afterwards.”
She also noted that, while Clue is often called a femtech product, it caters to anyone with periods or ovaries, and provides specific content for LGBTQ patients.
“There’s a lot that needs to be addressed with the LGBTQ population in general and it is not being addressed in healthcare like it should be,” she said. “Even when I attend conferences, there will be very few sections about fertility care for those individuals. We are trying to raise awareness so that people can understand that everyone needs fertility care regardless of how they identify.”
While Clue got its start focusing on the reproductive years, Brayboy said that there’s potential in digital tools across a life span.
“I think the beauty of the field of obstetrics and gynecology is that you take care of girls all the way to women. I think that hopefully in our future we’ll be doing that very same thing and be providing services to young adolescent women as they are making the pubertal transition all the way to women in menopause, which I think is really exciting and hopefully is on the horizon for us.”
Femtech a help in clinical trial gender gap?
Historically the medical world has had a gender gap in clinical trials. In fact, it wasn’t until 1994 that the U.S. National Institutes of Health mandated that women be included in clinical trials. But Brayboy said she sees digital tools as a way to help remedy this and spread information.
“I think in general a lot of populations have been left out of research. What does that mean? Well then, you’re not sure if a particular drug or what the efficacy is in women or people with periods. So what Clue could possibly do, and other femtech apps, is raise awareness – raise awareness about certain trials and raise awareness about representation,” she said. “Then we can ensure that people with periods and women are not left out because we are not biologically the same. We really need to understand how things metabolize differently, the side effects and how they can impact early pregnancy.”
She noted that if a clinical trial is sponsored by the U.S. government or the National Institutes of Health, researchers need to submit a type of plan about how they will recruit women or why they have to exclude women.
“If I wasn’t in this industry how would I find out? How would I even know to sign up? Usually most studies recruit through flyers, maybe some ads. But I think femtech has the ability to really display what things are available and where,” she said.
Looking ahead, Brayboy said she sees diversity being a big way of shaping the industry, not just in clinical trials, but also in the workforce.
“We are committed to diversity as well,” she said. “The real thing with science is that science is actually not a very diverse place, but on our team, we are a diverse science team not only in terms of training but also racially and in thought processes and background and origin.”