Cover Audrey Tsang, chief product officer of Clue (Photo: Clue)

These are the tech pioneers who have made it their mission to change the lives of women around the world

For centuries, women’s health has been overlooked and underfunded in scientific research. In fact, the mention of women's health or bodies still remain taboo in many parts of the world. As a result, there are still question marks surrounding some of the most common conditions faced by women, from menstruation and menopause to fertility and sexual health. Fortunately, things have begun to change with the rise of femtech. 

The femtech industry aims to develop and leverage technology to tackle existing women's issues while gathering data to further the research into these areas. In the last decade, the industry—once considered too niche or risky for investors—has boomed, attracting approximately US$5.7 billion in funding worldwide in 2021. These investments have made a world of difference, empowering millions of women to take control of their health and better understand their bodies. 

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In conjunction with International Women's Day, we highlight seven Asian women, who are taking the industry to new heights with advanced and accessible solutions for women in their region and beyond. 

1. Dr Mabel Yen Ngoc Nguyen, EloCare

With a PhD in biomedical engineering from the National University of Singapore with expertise in medical devices and applications, Dr Mabel Yen Ngoc Nguyen is the co-founder and CEO of a one-of-a-kind menopause tracker that uses AI and internet of medical things (IoMT) to help women. The Singapore-based health startup provides a wearable device and mobile app to monitor and track over 35 menopausal symptoms with data collection and self-assessments, to help women understand their condition. 

In June 2021, EloCare won Enterprise Singapore's ESG Healthcare Open Innovation Challenge. It was awarded with US$1.5 million to develop and deploy its unique research-based solutions in partnership with the country's leading healthcare providers. 

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2. Audrey Tsang, Clue

Among the female leaders behind one of the biggest menstrual health tracking app in the world, Clue is Audrey Tsang. Since taking up the role of chief product officer of Clue in 2020, she has overseen the rollout of the Clue Pregnancy Mode to help women track their body from conception to six weeks postpartum, with information on physical and emotional well-being from specialists. 

In 2022, the Berlin-based femtech plans to put its US$18 million of funding raised in the last quarter to use. It is currently gearing itself to transition into a direct-to-consumer medical device as a digital contraceptive.

3. Maria Wang-Faulkner, Simone Health

In September 2020, Maria Wang-Faulkner co-founded Simone Health, formerly known as Fig Health, to help women manage polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects 116 million women worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation. Based in Singapore, Simone Health works with experts, including nutritionists, psychologists and more, to virtually deliver support for women, whether it is research-backed information or 12-week plans. It also steers clear from the weight-based tracking approach, instead focusing on hormones that drive the most common PCOS symptoms, such as periods, insulin resistance, diabetes and heart risks. 

In just one year, the tech trailblazer who has experience developing the Google Assistant and working with the Clinton Health Access Initiative in New Delhi, India, has secured the backing for Simone Health from 500 Global, the venture capital firm who were the early backers of Grab, Canva and more. 

4. Anda Waluyo Sapardan, Sehati TeleCTG

Sehati TeleCTG was founded by Anda Waluyo Sapardan and her husband to tackle the high mortality rate of newborns in rural regions of Indonesia. Their low-cost cardiotocograph prototype, which monitor fetal heartbeat and uterine contractions during pregnancy and labour, are linked to a mobile app to track the first thousand days of human life, alerting mothers to risks of early death or intra-uterine stunting. 

The app also provides vital information and standardised recommendations from doctors throughout the pregnancy, with in-app options to book health check-ups and doctor's appointments. It also works to educate new mothers about health and nutrition for newborns and raise awareness on related issues, including abortion, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases. 

"Our aim is to reshape how health services are being provided," said Sapardan in a 2018 interview with Angin. "Our long term vision is to make community-based healthcare and empower midwives, who are our partners in doing all of this." 

5. Geetha Manjunath, Niramai Health Analytix

This health tech startup uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect breast cancer with thermographic images. According to its website, its diagnostic engine Thermalytix is peer-reviewed, regulatory cleared in India and holds 10 patents with the USPTO. Founded and led by Geetha Manjunath, it has been praised for being a science-backed, non-invasive and accessible solution for women in India. 

Niramai's last Series A funding round in 2019 raised US$6 million with investors including Pi Ventures, a fund backed by CDC Group. It has also won several awards, including World Bank's Women Health Tech Awards 2021, and has joined the third edition of the Eurasanité Bio-Accelerator MedTech programme to begin deploying its technology in Northern France. 

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6. Sayuri Tanaka, Medita Co

Backed by Velocity and Beyond Next Ventures, Medita Co—previously known as Herbio—has raised US$1.2 million over two funding rounds since it was founded in 2017. Led by CEO Sayuri Tanaka, the Japanese fertility startup wants to employ an easy Picot wearable device to measure basal body temperature every 10 minutes to track menstrual and ovulation cycle, providing more accurate windows for conceiving children without changing women's lifestyles. 

"We will endeavour to put it into practical use at an early stage by conducting research and development," said Tanaka in a recent press statement. "I would like to acquire proper data on the physical condition of women and make full use of technology to establish evidence and strive for social implementation."

7. Anna Lee, Lioness

Founded in 2016, Lioness introduced the world to the world's first and only smart vibrator that collects biofeedback data to help women understand their body and sexual well-being. Based in San Francisco, this femtech startup aims to de-stigmatise female sexuality and stimulate more research in sexual health. 

At the helm is co-founder Anna Lee, a mechanical engineer from UC Berkeley with extensive experience launching innovations in Amazon. Along with Liz Klinger, she is the face of a new technology-driven wave of sexual revolution in the world, starting with the Lioness Vibrator. She is also outspoken advocate for fellow female entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds.

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