Scores of people use mobile technologies to keep an eye on their well-being by tracking their steps, workouts and even how long and deep they sleep, so why shouldn't women who cycle? Hormona hopes to encourage people with periods to add hormone-monitoring to their quantified health mix by pitching its tracker in the startup battlefield.
After testing with a few thousand women in Europe, it is launching its app in the U.S. The U.K. startup has spent a couple of years in R&D developing an easy-to-perform, proprietary at- home hormone test to underpin a forthcoming monthly subscription business that will enable users of its free app to pay to regularly test and report.
Paying users will get feedback on whether they are inside or outside the normal range of hormones for women their age, and suggestions for treatments if something looks amiss.
For more, that is for the beginning. Hormona's overarching goal is to encourage a critical mass of users to get on-board with a mission to help plug the data gap that persists around women's health. Hormona confirms that any studies that involve user data will be consent based.
The COO at Hormona, Jasmine Tagesson, pitches as part of the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield. The image was created by Haje Kamps.
She says that the test can help women figure out if they have irregular cycles, if they are going into menopause or if they are pregnant. The solution is to follow a woman from her first cycle all the way to her last one.
We are hoping that with the data users opt in, we can do more studies about how women are affected by their hormones, how different connections and different levels between hormones can be connected to hormone related issues such as PCOS or endometriosis. She says that it's true that there are infertility and menopause. There are a lot of things that are connected to your hormones that are currently under studied.
SFC Capital, Nascent Invest, and Techstars have all invested in the startup so far, raising a total of over one million dollars.
Hormona will start selling its at- home hormone tests in the US in the first quarter of next year.
The app provides information about the function of different female hormones and is free to download. Once the testing component of the business launches early next year, it is designed to funnel users towards regular self-testing tounlock personalized hormonal insights.
When the test is available, women will be able to confirm that what is supposed to happen is actually happening, thanks to the app.
She says that they may add tests for more hormones in the future, with testosterone and cortisol being two other possibilities.
Rather than being bundled onto a single test strip, users perform the initial batches of hormones as three separate tests. Certain hormones need to be tested on certain days to understand how levels change throughout the cycle. She says that the individual test dates are based on when your hormones are supposed to be at the highest or lowest levels.
In order to calculate personalized testing dates, Hormona needs to know about the app users' age and cycle. Depending on the user's goal and age, these dates can vary a little. She says the tests are on par with home blood tests.
She says that they are on par with at- home blood test, but that is something they continue to improve on. We asked for data on how the at- home hormone test compares to a lab-based hormone test, but Lofqvist was not able to give it. That is one to keep an eye on.
How do the at- home tests work? Users take the specified hormone test in the morning on the day the app instructs them to pee on the test stick and use their mobile phone camera to get a quantitive result within 15 minutes A couple of lines appear on the strip. Hormona uses the intensity of these lines to determine the amount of hormones in the user's urine.
She says that if you compare it to a COVID-19 test, you don't want to have two test lines. The intensity in the test lines is compared to provide a quantitive result for the processing of images.
It has the chance to glean a better understanding of hormonal changes because the tech can pick up on patterns over time. Hormona's at- home tests are more accurate than a blood-based hormone test performed by a professional.
Today's solution where you draw blood doesn't really tell you what is going on with your hormones because in order to understand it you need to test it multiple times in order to see the patterns.
Hormona will recommend users subscribe for at least three months in order to get what Lofqvist calls your hormonal "baseline", although she says they're hopeful that women will see the value in continuing to shell out for a subscription. She says they are looking at how the product might integrate with other health tech gadgets.
In order to figure out what is happening, you need to test for at least three cycles. We can show you what is going on with your hormones after three cycles. She suggests giving you a treatment plan based on your hormones.
holistic treatment plans tend to be used for women that are a bit younger.
The CEO of Hormona and the COO of the company were present at the pitch event. The image was created by Haje Kamps.
We are in discussions with medical providers that can provide medication to women that are in need of it if they are going into menopause early or have issues with their menopause.
It is easy to see utility in ongoing, regular hormone tracking for women suffering from specific health issues that they already suspect may be related to a hormonal imbalance, but why should women generally be wanting to track their hormones? Hormona hopes that people who cycle will be persuaded to pay for this data on an ongoing basis.
Lofqvist retells her own story of health issues related to hormones, which eventually led to a diagnosis of an under-activethyroid. It was the stress and frustration of her experience with conventional channels that sealed her conviction that women should be able to track their hormones. It is said that knowledge is power.
My own health issues caused me to start Hormona. I worked in an investment fund for a long time. I went to a lot of doctors because I lost my hair and gained weight. She said that a lot of doctors thought it was due to stress and that she should take anti-depressants. It wasn't until I found a hormone specialist in Brussels that he realized I was suffering from hormonal imbalances.
Today, it is very common for women to have hormonal issues. Today's solution of drawing blood can't tell you what's going on with your hormones When it comes to a lot of issues that women are going through that are currently under studied, we hope that we can bring more data and medical research around.
Hormona's start point is a list of around 50 symptoms that can be related to hormonal imbalances, and its initial target are women who can connect to those symptoms and who are interested in them.
There are many symptoms that are related to hormones. Women in their 20s to early 40s are very interested in the concept, but as we go on, we want to follow women from their first period all the way to their last with all the hormones.
If the app picks up something out of the normal range as the user performs regular testing, it could be the result of them having been on hormonal contraception and then stopping it.
She says the personalized plans are based on existing scientific research into interventions that may be beneficial for hormonal imbalances, such as diet, exercise or taking certain supplements.
She points out that there are a lot ofholistic treatments that can help women stablize their hormones if they are young.
Hormona's technology is not yet regulated as a medical device, but Lofqvist confirms that is the goal, telling us: "We have a very clear regulatory path that we have developed over the last year."
The intended product utility is to help older women identify when they're entering the menopause by spotting changes to their hormones. Maybe they could pick up that change earlier.
There isn't any test that tells a woman when they're going into menopause If you haven't had your period in a year, you may be considered going into menopause. When your FSH is going up, we can see that you are going into menopause. There is a lot of use-case around these hormones but, to start off, we are focusing on hormonal imbalances and using that to improve the general well-being of a woman.
She hopes that the data collected will help guide the future of hormonal health. It's under studied, under utilized and under funded.
This isn't the first quantified health startup we've seen that uses urine testing to acquire data. The health alert potential of pee-testing has been interesting for a long time, and it is easy to see why since it is a straightforward, minimally intrusive/low mess method.
Hormona isn't the first startup to offer at- home hormone testing, with the likes of Berlin-based Inne and Modern Fertility also in the market.
For example, Allara is a U.S. startup that is focused on support for people with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, rather than trying to sell the idea of tracking hormones.
Hormona is focused on hormonal health, according to Lofqvist.
She has warm words for another European startup, Inne, when we mention its competing at- home hormone test. She says there are differences in product focus and output, with one example being Inne targeting fertility, which was delayed because of the swine flu.
She says that Inne provides users with less quantitative results than Hormona. Inne has always avoided describing its product as a hormone tracker, but its marketing talks of its product as a cycle and ovulation tracker, which is narrower than Hormonas broader quantified health push. It isn't testing all the same hormones. The product positioning between those two pairs looks different.
Hormona is planning on going after a broader use-case for female health and well-being. Its goal is to connect with a wider user-base by convincing women that they need to keep an eye on their hormones and be curious about how they compare with their peers.
Women who have been missed by their doctors have early interest in the product. She says that they have been trying to figure out what is going on with their health. She says that there are women who are not suffering who are interested in understanding what happens with their hormones on a daily basis.
One woman wrote a nice review about how grateful she was that a hormone app told her that she might suffer from premenstrual syndrome in the days before her menstrual cycle. It feels like a big relief for a lot of women to know that they are not abnormal.
It is amazing that there are so many companies that are flourishing right now. There is a lot of companies around fertility and menopause but what we want to focus on is solely hormonal health and carve out this new space that serves as its own category where we can follow women from her first period all the way to her last with all the changes that she's going through
Women shouldn't want to track their hormones. One very big red flag for potential users in the U.S., specifically, which might give women there reason to say no to using a digital tool for this kind of intimate self-surveillance, following the Supreme Court's undoing of constitutional protections for abortion earlier this month
Most of the time, abortion is illegal in some states. Prior to the Supreme Court decision, there were no prosecutions of women for stillbirth. A digital platform that takes snapshots of individuals' reproductive health data is at risk of being used to prosecute women suspected of illegal abortions.
The app holds data that could be used to target women's own devices. If users are to trust Hormona with such sensitive data, they need to be sure that this information is secured.
Lofqvist said that they are keeping a close eye on the situation in the U.S. We do not want to exclude American women from using a service that can help bring more awareness, control and understanding of the female body to the women who need it the most and we are evaluating a variety of strategies to keep our potential American users.
It is not as easy for the U.S. government to issue us with data that is located in Europe because we have a degree of separation.
We believe in women's basic right and our reproductive right is part of that. We take precautions to make sure that what we do doesn't put vulnerable women at risk.
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