The device could save 70,000 new mothers — if prejudice didn’t get in the way

Good morning broadsheet readers! Today’s guest article comes from Fortune senior writer Maria Espan, who delves into her recent work on how medicine has left women behind. Plus: California Public Employees Retirement System funds could soon go toward women-run funds Rep. Katie Porter bids for Senate. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Medication shortage. Two years ago, my colleague Erika Frey and I began conversations about a topic that keeps popping up in our reporting: Why does women’s health suffer from a lack of research, a lack of funding, and a lack of services?

Women represent more than half of the population and 80% of all healthcare purchasing decisions. They take more drugs than men and go to the doctor more often. But despite their market power, women have for much of history been treated as an afterthought or a nuisance — at best — to the $4.3 trillion US healthcare market. Only 5% of all biopharmaceutical R&D spending goes toward women-specific conditions, most of which are cancer-related. (Extract oncology and it’s down to 1%.) And for all the hype about femtech, the numbers aren’t any better in the startup ecosystem: In 2021, women’s health made up just 5% of all digital health investment in the United States.

At worst, this lack of concern leads to deadly consequences for women: Witness America’s appalling maternal mortality rate, the worst of any developed country, and the high death toll among Black and Indigenous women. (It’s likely to get worse in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s overturning ru Fifth. valley In June: Banning abortion increases maternal death rates, several studies find.) Or there’s what happens when companies, doctors, and regulators ignore decades of patient complaints, as I covered in this award-winning investigation into the risks — and sometimes fatal — of the implant business. the breast. And over the past two years, as Erica and I have been talking about this, even reports focused on other business topics have kept bringing us back to Women’s Health, the startling lack of basic services for very common problems. Case in point: my profile on Instacart CEO Fidji Simo, one of the 10% of American women who suffers from endometriosis, whose experience navigating the health care system eventually led her to start her own clinic focused specifically on health woman.

A year ago, Erica and I were awarded a grant from the NIHCM Foundation, for “a series of stories that will examine how and why the business of science and medicine has left women behind.” We’ve spent the past few months reporting on related projects, and in late December, luck She published the first feature to come out of that grant: Erica’s beautifully written, exhaustively reported story about a simple medical device, called the Jada System, that could help save 70,000 women from dying of post-pregnancy complications each year.

Jesse Baker Alexander
Jesse Baker Alexander, photographed in Sacramento, California on December 20, 2022. When she was 21, she co-founded and became CEO of the startup that developed the Jada device.

Image via Kevin Fiscus for Fortune

Jada’s saga is a global health story about an invention that could save thousands of lives in countries few can afford. It’s a classic startup story, about a group of young founders who build an “elegant” and “basic” solution to a long-standing, life-threatening problem. (Jesse Baker Alexander, the first CEO of the company that developed Jada, first teamed up with its inventors when they were undergraduates at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.) It’s a story about how much big pharma–and its investors–appreciate women’s healthcare.

or don’t.

As Erica wrote:

“It’s believed that you can’t make money in women’s health,” says Dr. Elisabeth Garner, chief scientific officer of Ferring, a 72-year-old private Swiss company that pioneers the field. Garner and others describe the idea of ​​self-reinforcement as a brick wall that entrepreneurs and innovators constantly bump into. Women’s health company valuations are low because there are few success stories to point to, and there are few success stories because they struggle to get enough investor support. And with investors and CEOs still more likely to be female professionals, women’s health is also more likely to end up in the industry’s trash heap.

I hope you read Erika’s entire story here, right down to her devastating kicking about how many lives the Jada device could save in Uganda — if only the doctors and hospitals there could afford it.

In the meantime, stay tuned for future reports in this series. I’m currently working on a feature about over-the-counter access to contraceptives – if you have a tip to share about that (or a solution to the access problem), or other ideas on how to investigate the gender gap in medicine, please email me at maria. aspan@fortune.com.

Maria Espan
maria.aspan@fortune.com
@employee

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Also in the headlines

– California in Congress. Rep. Katie Porter (D) filed her formal candidacy for Senate office yesterday. The California congresswoman will bid for a Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is expected to retire before the 2024 election. CNN

Return of the Golden Globes. At last night’s Golden Globes, host Jerrod Carmichael addressed the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s scandal over its lack of black members who canceled the awards last year. Quinta Bronson Abbott Elementary He has won as many awards as I have white lotus. NBC

– More to watch. Behind Netflix’s quest for dominance is Bela Bajaria, Head of Global Television Broadcasting. She says the company’s bold approach to TV production is because “people like having more”. The New Yorker

Calpers bet. The California Public Employees Retirement System, or Calpers, is making a big bet on small private equity firms that can put their money behind companies and funds run by women and minorities. The Calpers are putting $500 million into TPG’s Next Fund and the same amount into GCM Grosvenor. bloomberg

Movers and Shakers: Shaina Strom He was appointed President and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Promoted Texas Roadhouse Chair of Education and Culture Jenna Tobin to the president. Jimmy Miller, formerly of Cargill and General Electric, joins EY to serve as CFO and Global Chief Financial Officer for its proposed public company. Found a weight care company hired Diana Budgeon Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Operations Officer. Former CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe Sharon Letty He will begin a new role as CEO of Ideal Image. Prologis promoted Carolina Gurgel To SVP, Chief Operations Officer, Europe.

In case you missed it yourself

– the state of the state. New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her official address yesterday. The governor, who was recently elected to her first full term, has outlined a plan to create more affordable housing and public safety proposals, which includes hiring more attorneys general to handle a backlog of cases. The New York Times

– The dress to be worn. As people become more comfortable bringing their full, true selves to work, a new class of workwear for non-binary people is emerging. People who wear gender non-traditional clothing say they’re discovering what type of business attire makes them feel most comfortable in the office or on Zoom. The New York Times

Health leave. A new study says that paid paternity leave improves mental health. The research, which examined data from 45 previous studies, concluded that depression, distress and burnout were all reduced in organizations with paid leave. parental

Prep bankruptcy. As Bed Bath & Beyond prepares for potential bankruptcy, the company is cutting costs. The company led by CEO Sue Gove is closing about 150 stores and making layoffs. Wall Street Journal

on my radar

Workplace friendships are worth the occasional awkwardness bloomberg

How gender bias has exacerbated the peer review crisis Chronicle of higher education

Return top exit Washington Post

parting words

“I just read these women’s voices the whole time. It was really cool.”

Actress Claire Foy, reading a script The woman speaksa film about sexual abuse in the Mennonite community.

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