Switzerland positioned to take lead in predicted USD 1 trillion women’s health sector

women’s health sector

Zurich, March 22, 2024: According to a new report by McKinsey , women spend 25% more time in “poor health” than men; addressing this issue would not only improve the lives of millions of women but could also boost the global economy by at least USD 1 trillion annually by 2040. Through a variety of actions – running accelerator programs, supporting startups and hosting numerous agenda-setting conferences – Switzerland is fast becoming one of the world’s leading women’s health hubs, with over 30 focused companies already established.

Activity is spread throughout the country. A key center is EPFL Innovation Park in Lausanne, which, through a joint initiative with Swiss insurance giant Groupe Mutuel, runs Tech4Eva. This 6-month equity-free global acceleration program is the first of its kind in continental Europe and facilitates selected startups in femtech to refine their business models and go-to-market process strategies. It also helps them meet investors and potential customers through thematic workshops, roadshows, and personalized technical and business coaching. Over the last three years it has attracted 381 applications and selected 77 early- and growth-stage startups representing a broad spectrum of applications: mental health and wellbeing, pregnancy and post-partum, fertility and infertility, prevention and diagnostics, and menopause.

“With Tech4Eva, we have built up a strong femtech innovation network and ecosystem including not only startups, but also corporates, research centers and healthcare providers,” says Ursula Oesterle, president of EPFL Innovation Park. “We aspire to become Switzerland’s innovation hub for women’s health, and to take femtech R&D to the next level.”

“The original idea of Tech4Eva is to promote technologies for women’s health at a global level, by leveraging our expertise of bringing high tech startups to success, and our strong international network of corporate experts and VCs,” comments Lan Zuo Gillet, Co-founder and Program Director. “As the first femtech accelerator in continental Europe, we have become a thought leader in global femtech space within few years. The startups of the Tech4Eva program have raised USD 180 million to date, showing growing investor interest in this previously overlooked asset class. Currently several large corporates and healthcare providers are reaching out to us for partnership opportunities, and we look forward to teaming up with some of them to scale Tech4Eva into a global business and innovation platform.”

The Tech4Eva program is sponsored by Groupe Mutuel, one of Switzerland’s largest health insurers with over a million customers across the country. “Supporting the program was a no-brainer for us,” says Sophie Revaz, a member of the company’s executive board. “Half of our policyholders are women, and less than 4% of business investment worldwide is dedicated to women’s health. We believe that has to change. Startups that go through Tech4Eva could one day develop products and services that fill a real unmet need for our female policyholders.”

“The Tech4EVA accelerator has provided access to a large community of experts and has propelled our product development and fundraising efforts. Significantly, we are now recognized as a femtech innovator. Having recently won an Innosuisse Innovation project, we are working with reproductive health clinics to observe changes in the cellular metabolism of embryos and so enhance embryo selection. We are confident that this ground-breaking advancement in the field will improve patient outcomes” said Gora Conley, PhD, Co-Founder and CEO, Annaida Technologies.

Another major Swiss initiative is the Zurich based Women’s Brain Project (WBP), an international non-profit organization involving leading scientist from various disciplines who work with patients and caregivers towards the implementation of sex and gender strategies within precision medicine, from basic science to novel technologies. CEO, Dr. Antonella Santuccione Chadha is an internationally recognized expert in neuroscience, neurological disorders, and psychiatric diseases who advocates for the establishment of the first worldwide sex and gender precision medicine research institute, based in Switzerland.

“Men and women are different when it comes to disease risks – frequency, severity, symptomatology, diagnostic journey and even response to treatments,” says Dr Chadha. “Our mission is to transform the development of drugs and medical treatments through sex and gender factors as a gateway to precision medicine and care. We do this by running research projects, consult with industry partners, engage with regulators, government and non-governmental organizations and finally, develop novel sex and gender specific technologies to bring better treatment options to patients & caregivers. All this needs trust and funds. We are actively searching for partners and sponsors for our research to establish the first research institute for sex and gender precision medicine in Switzerland with a worldwide research.”

Alongside local events, Switzerland is also hosting an increasing number of international meetings. Particularly worth noting is the Women’s Health Innovation EU Summit in Basel on April 26-27. “We are delighted to see conferences such as this being held in Switzerland,” says Sirpa Tsimal, Director Global Marketing Investment Promotion at Switzerland Global Enterprise, the official Swiss agency for export and investment promotion. “Innovation, especially in life sciences, has always been one of our key strengths. We offer a very dense ecosystem for both local and international companies to establish and grow their activities in Women’s Health. We also see similar developments in areas such as Longevity and Precision Medicine.”

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