01 Dec 2018
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Case Study: Your Data, Your Health

A women’s health startup looks for the right launch
Re: Muthanna Al-Mumin (GMP 22); Rene Robichaud (MBA 1984); Suleiman Yakasai (PLDA 22)
by Jen McFarland Flint

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Ridhi Tariyal (MBA 2009) was in her early 30s when she grew curious about her chances of having children one day. “I didn’t want to wake up and learn that my opportunity had passed,” says Tariyal, then a genomics researcher with a master’s in biomedical enterprise from MIT. When discussing her potential fertility with her ob-gyn, Tariyal was told that she could come back for a clinical workup after she had tried and failed to conceive for a year.

Determined to give women more agency over their health, Tariyal cofounded NextGen Jane in 2014 with patented technology that she had developed during a Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Science Entrepreneurship at HBS. The startup employs a system for collecting reproductive cell samples from a tampon, which the customer sends to the lab for genomic analysis. The lab then provides the customer with baseline data, which can be used longitudinally for early detection of gynecological diseases.

The Oakland-based company completed its second clinical trial and is now raising Series A funding. Its initial indications focus on identifying conditions that contribute to infertility, such as endometriosis—which affects about 10 percent of women and can otherwise take a decade to diagnose. But NextGen Jane is building more diseases into the pipelines. “There are so many understudied areas in women’s health we could explore,” Tariyal says.

Illustration by Marcos Chin

The Question:

“The first test I bring to market will make or break the entire platform,” says Tariyal, so the question is how to choose among many stakeholders: Should NextGen Jane focus first on the disease affecting the greatest number of women? The one most likely to impact costs for insurers? Should it pursue the test that would most appeal to investors for its speed to market and exit opportunity? Or should NextGen Jane choose the tool most likely to be adopted by ob-gyns to manage their patient populations?

The Answers:

The idealistic answer is to focus on the gynecological disease that affects the largest population. As there is need for buy-in, however, I would opt for the test with speedy release to market that would appeal to investors. The logic is that you need a win. Once you establish a good foundation, you will have the opportunity to expand to what feels morally correct.
—Muthanna Al-Mumin (GMP 22, 2017)

Because the company has a weak income statement and balance sheet, capital is a must. You can’t help others if you (or your company) are not in a good place. That’s why flight attendants tell you to first put on your oxygen mask before trying to help others. As you build the company’s financial strength, you can reach for higher-risk research with the potential to help the most people.
—Rene Robichaud (MBA 1984)

I suggest that you target the applications that will most likely impact insurers. If insurers see the value in it, they will certainly patronize it, and that will give NextGen Jane competitive advantage. The value will be reducing the cost of paying for health insurance subscribers, which will bring higher returns for the insurance company. We have seen this in the drug Angiomax by the Medicines Company.
—Suleiman Yakasai (PLDA 22, 2016)

Got a case? To take part in a future “Case Study,” send an outline of your company’s challenge to bulletin@hbs.edu

From Baker Library | Bloomberg Center:

According to Forbes, the healthcare industry is “increasingly recognizing the need to better serve women,” with digital women’s health plays (Femtech) receiving over $1 billion in funding over a three year period. CBInsights maps over 45 startups active in this space. The Financial Times points out that femtech startups often have female founders, another significant shift. And it’s not only women in the developed world who benefit; USAID promotes mHealth projects as a way to improve women’s health around the globe.

 
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