Women’s healthcare continues to attract much-deserved investor attention. Subsequent to Fogarty graduate Alydia Health’s acquisition by Merck’s spinoff Organon, another Fogarty company, Materna Medical, announced it has raised $10 million in a Series A2 financing round led by Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health (Wavemaker 360).
Materna is a novel OBGYN platform company that is helping shape a $6 billion market to address the most common pelvic conditions women face. Three years ago, the startup launched its first product, Milli, as a consumer wellness product to treat the millions of women who have chronic pelvic pain.
Its second product, Prep, the first of its kind aiming to prevent pelvic floor injuries during childbirth, is currently in a pivotal trial. This common ailment has long-lasting repercussions: 50% of women will experience incontinence or prolapse by the time they’re 55; up to 15% of all women will undergo surgery for a pelvic floor disorder; and they’re nine times more likely to have those injuries if they’ve had a vaginal delivery. The market is immense from two angles: Childbirth is the number one reason for hospitalization worldwide, and incontinence is more than a $12 billion annual market in the U.S. alone.
The Series A2 funding will be used to obtain Milli’s 510(k) FDA clearance and increase its revenue growth, and to finalize Prep’s clinical trial.
A path to funding
“Successfully achieving funding comes down to finding the right people, and we were very happy to find Materna’s people,” said Tracy MacNeal, president and CEO of Materna Medical. “Investors, including Wavemaker 360, appreciated our vision as they realized the extent of the large unmet market we are targeting with both of our products, as well as the company’s continuous progress and growth.”
Previously Materna had received a $2.2 million grant from the NIH, which allowed it to start trials for Prep at Baylor College of Medicine and later expanded to Marin Heath and El Camino Hospital. The pilot study showed that Prep reduced pelvic floor injury by 60%, which if repeated in the pivotal trial, would be vastly beneficial to women’s quality of life.
The recent round of funding is allowing the company to expand to 15 clinical sites, including some of the most prestigious OBGYN institutions in the country. Within these organizations, one notable proponent is Ronald J. Wapner, MD, chairman of the Perinatal Research Consortium (PRC); and vice chair of Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology for Columbia University Irving Medical Center and director of Reproductive Genetics. Dr. Wapner has agreed to oversee the Materna Prep trial as overall study leader, along with co-leader urogynecologist Helai Hesham, MD. The PRC is composed of 10 medical centers, many of which are joining the Maternal clinical trial.
“The endorsement from leading experts in the OBGYN space has certainly helped raise our profile as we pursued investments,” Tracy says.
Further momentum came from Milli’s sales, which have grown year-over-year — up 80% in the past 12 months — despite the relatively small funds and team it had to work with, further underscoring its potential.
Growing the team
With this positive momentum, Materna has been able to make some significant hires, including a director of business development, Ann Schmults, most recently at Alydia Health, who is leading the recruitment of new clinical sites for Prep. The company also hired senior director of engineering, Lisa Molloy; chief medical officer, Edward Evantash, most recently VP of medical affairs at Hologic; operations coordinator Stacy Evans; and a new senior director of clinical affairs, Hang Nguyen, who has over 20 years of experience in clinical research in urology and women’s health, most recently at Axogen.
A much-needed focus on the women’s health space
Tracy appreciates all that has happened in the women’s health space since Materna was founded. They were well ahead of their time with a focus on women’s health; now because of the 2016 “#me too” movement, women’s health and the concept of FemTech has finally came to the forefront.
Since then, there’s been steady growth in FemTech, with billions of dollars flowing into women’s health investment over the last five years.
“We are seeing a lot of innovation, with Fogarty companies like Alydia Health and nVision leading the way, and beginning to see significant exits,” Tracy says. While there are some areas in women’s health that are becoming more crowded, it’s still not enough, and she also believes in continuing to work towards addressing not only gender disparities but also racial disparities.
“We are excited to get these products to patients – they need them right now because they don’t have any other choices. It’s easy to get up in the morning when you know you’re working on something that can transform women’s lives,” Tracy says. “We’re also excited to show investors that when we invest in women, we all win.”