Each year, the caliber of professionals who participate in the Ferolyn Fellowship continues to impress us. Hailing from diverse parts of the healthcare spectrum, they all share an undeniable passion for the medtech industry, coupled with curiosity and the tenacity to solve large problems. In addition, it’s clear that they desire to be part of a community committed to not only accelerating their own career path, but that of others.
Ridhi Tariyal, co-founder and CEO of NextGen Jane, is no exception. With a background in industrial engineering, biomedical enterprise and business, her true passion for the industry was cemented when she was accepted into the first class of Harvard’s Blavatnik Fellowship. The life sciences entrepreneurship program provides Harvard Business School alumni the opportunity to create new ventures leveraging the universities’ resources, which include a large repository of unused intellectual property.
Her personal situation leads to an “aha” moment
As Ridhi set out to identify a large problem she could build a company around, she was facing her own medical dilemma. As a 33-year old, she had been wondering about a topic that is top-of-mind for many working women: How long can you wait to have children? What is your optimal fertility “window?”
When she realized how difficult it was to obtain information about reproductive health and longevity, she realized she had come upon a big gap – and opportunity.
A complementary challenge lay in protecting the reproductive system from diseases that may occur as women age. For example, studies have found that up to 70 percent of women will suffer from fibroids at some point in their lives, and one out of 10 women in the U.S. experience endometriosis, among other diseases that impact fertility.
“Today, the average age to have a child is 27, but women who pursue graduate degrees or a career often aren’t ready to have children until their 30s. In fact, birth rates have declined in every age group of women, except for women in their 40s, where it has increased,” explains Ridhi. “We saw a tremendous opportunity to solve a problem that has been overlooked and make a profound impact. Times are changing, and modern women need answers to modern problems.”
The solution needed to be seamless and simple to accommodate women already busy juggling multiple priorities. The answer came to her as she connected the need to get large blood samples on a regular basis and the ability to regularly collect it via women’s menstrual cycles. “Menstrual flow provides us with phenomenal access to cells in the reproductive tract. Something that is currently treated like trash actually has a wealth of information on our health.”
And that is how NextGen Jane was born. Ridhi launched the company with a former co-worker, Stephen Gire, a scientist and entrepreneur. The startup aims to collect the genomic signals from the cells of the reproductive tract to build algorithms to discover early signs of disease that may affect fertility and quality of life. But what truly separates the company is its ability to gather epigenetic and transcriptomic data from reproductive cells that you can now only get with an invasive biopsy.
The company is currently raising Series A funding to run a larger validation trial and help scale the device when they go to market.
Finding support and advice through the Fellowship
Ridhi was introduced to the fellowship by Deborah Kilpatrick, Ph.D., CEO of Evidation Health and an advisor to NextGen Jane.
Already, the program has proven to be extremely helpful. “In the brief time since I joined, I have already met with my assigned mentor, Angela Macfarlane, multiple times, and she has significantly influenced my fundraising strategy with her advice that’s both tactical and strategic,” said Ridhi. “I am now thinking through my hiring and also considering my own personal growth, such as the type of leader I aspire to be, and the next steps needed to propel the company forward.”
In addition, she looks forward to the bonds she’ll build with her colleagues and the opportunity to give and seek advice from like-minded professionals.