Earlier in 2020, Accenture Ventures announced a partnership with Springboard Enterprises, an organization focused on women entrepreneurs and innovators across industries, with a strong emphasis on early stage Health and Life Sciences companies. Springboard offers connections to resources and strategic business partnerships for the companies within its industry sector cohorts. Their focus on women’s health innovation extends beyond the traditional women's health issues such as fertility and reproductive health but addressed a range of diseases and conditions that predominantly, uniquely or differently impact women. As such, the Women’s Health Innovation Framework was created to address the entire lifespan of issues: Autoimmune, Oncology, Bone Health, Gynecological & Reproductive Health, Sexual Health, Heart Disease, and Cognitive and Brain Health.
Leaders from Springboard and Accenture sat down to discuss the importance of collaborations in the life sciences and healthcare space. We asked the group to share their perspectives and insights on the need for innovation in women’s healthcare, data analytics and research, honing in on some of the questions posed.
Órlaith Burke: Why is innovation needed in women’s healthcare?
Amy Millman: Women’s health research is extremely underfunded and undervalued—it currently accounts for just 4% of overall R&D funding for healthcare products and services, and 65% of this funding focuses on fertility. There are many reasons for this. Until recently, women of child bearing age were not included in clinical trials and therefore drugs and devices tested on men were ineffective or even unsafe for women. Without their involvement in the trials, research on women’s health outcomes was limited.
Frances Bruce: Medical training also may not address gender specificity in the care or treatment of patients and it’s been revealed that conditions and disease symptoms present differently in men and women. Consider this statistic from the National Health, Lung and Blood Institute: ‘ Heart disease kills 1 out of 4 women in the U.S, more women than men die within a year of having a heart attack, perhaps because women also tend to think their symptoms are not those of a heart attack.’ Heart attacks may present differently in women than men.
OB: How is Springboard encouraging investment in women’s health innovation?
AM: Springboard is a leading network of influencers, investors and innovators dedicated to building scalable, sustainable and successful companies led by women. Springboard innovators are challenging and transforming the status quo through their shared vision of connecting to resources, experts, research and solutions so that unmet needs and inequities are being addressed.
FB: The opportunity is clear when you look at the metrics on investment in women’s health products and services; the Statistics on the Health of Women webpage on Springboard’s website provides data which should be noted. Only 3% of the 2,728 US digital health deals since 2011 have focused on women’s health. Source: Rock Health Report.
AM: By investing human capital in early stage innovators such as Madorra, developing solutions to improve quality of life after menopause; Everlywell, providers of at-home hormonal, fertility and post-menopause testing; and BrainCheck, which provides rapid, mobile cognitive assessment and decision support technology to physicians, Springboard is playing a role in advocating for greater investment in women’s health research and innovation.
Another great example of an innovator in this space is Babyscripts, a Springboard portfolio company that was also an Accenture Healthtech innovation challenge finalist. It is one of the only businesses that offers a toolkit for tech-enabled prenatal and postpartum care. They are addressing a great unmet need for practitioners and patients who now have content and community to help guide them through the many health issues during the birthing process.
The importance of inclusiveness in clinical trials has also received greater attention. Medable, another Springboard portfolio company, provides a platform to conduct global clinical trials online, allowing broader and more diverse participation and capturing a lot more information on variables and indicators that may have an impact on a trial outcomes.
OB: How will this partnership make a difference?
FB: The formal partnership between Accenture Ventures and Springboard will help to grow and scale these innovators.
AM: Over the past 20 years, Springboard has developed a strong record of recruiting and qualifying over 800 innovative women-led companies, and the expanded relationship with Accenture will unlock untapped potential and economic value.
FB: This partnership adds to Accenture’s emphasis on women’s health by broadening the access it can provide to clients that are seeking to partner with innovative start ups in terms of the medical research. From a diversity and inclusion perspective, Accenture will promote start ups that are led by and serve previously underrepresented populations.
To be at the forefront of that movement, connecting new ventures, exploring technical innovations, prototyping new ideas, and testing them with patients is extremely exciting. We are creating a meeting place where everyone comes together to make an impact on the future of women’s health and moves the discussion forward, with all its social and historical complexities, to the forefront of Life Sciences research.
Accenture and Springboard will be publishing additional perspectives on Women in Life Sciences and innovation across the health lifecycle stages of reproductive health, gynecology, menopause and aging.
Learn more about the collaboration to increase opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
For more information on the great work Springboard is conducting, please visit https://sb.co/