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For Women, by Women: Femtech Innovation Grows at Johns Hopkins University

Mar 26, 2024

Featured in Femtech Innovation at Hopkins

A passion for women’s health is prevalent among Johns Hopkins students participating in our FastForward U student entrepreneurship program. Take Selena Shirkin, a biomedical engineering student at the Whiting School of Engineering. Selena is tackling emergency in-utero surgery, a risky procedure performed on 120,000 babies in the United States each year. Membrane rupture occurs in 30% to 40% of cases. Shirkin led a team to design a safer solution, focusing on preventing membrane rupture. Their research revealed that the main cause of rupture is the use of inappropriate surgical devices. To help address this, and in collaboration with experts, they developed a novel port system designed for fetal therapy, which is currently in the prototype stage. Shirkin aims to take this project beyond the classroom, believing it has the potential to make a significant impact.

As the innovator community at Johns Hopkins develops new ‘femtech’ solutions, the institution is also investing in the policy aspects of women’s health.  At the Bloomberg School of Public Health, a new Center for Global Women’s Health and Gender Equity will address pressing issues affecting women and girls worldwide. It aims to unite stakeholders globally and within Johns Hopkins to advance gender equity through applied research, training, and mentoring. The Center’s initiatives include a scholars program, the Evidence Accelerator cohort, to cultivate future leaders in applied gender equity.

The femtech sector has experienced marked growth in the past several years, valued at more than $59 billion in 2023, with projections suggesting overall value will reach $103 billion by 2030. One of the biggest drivers of femtech is the increase in prevalence of women as investors. Venture capital funds of note include BBG Ventures (Built By Girls), which recently closed a $50 million fund, the Female Founders Fund, Forerunner Ventures, Halogen Ventures, SoGal Ventures, Serena Ventures (Serena Williams), and Pivotal Ventures (Melinda Gates). In the past decade, the number of firms dedicated to funding female founders, many of which focus on women’s health, has surged.

While the underrepresentation of women as founders, investors, and inspiration for innovation continues to plague the tech industry, femtech’s future looks bright. As we gain deeper insights into the unmet needs of women’s health, and as more women from Johns Hopkins direct their efforts towards entrepreneurship to address these challenges, more progress towards equity is on the horizon.

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