U.K.-based gynaecological health startup Daye, which is known for having invented the CBD tampon that is now used by over 60,000 women in the U.K., has completed a $11.5 million funding round and announced the launch of its vaginal microbiome screening tests that can detect infections and pathogens which are linked to STIs and vaginal infections, as well as fertility, pregnancy and IVF complications, making at-home vaginal health testing more accurate, comfortable and convenient.
The company’s latest successful Series A funding round includes investment from London-based Hambro Perks, an international investment firm that focuses on breakthrough and growth technology companies. Leading U.K. health solutions provider, Simplyhealth and UK medics Dr Michelle Tempest and Dr Fiona Pathiraja also invested in this round. Funding from this round will be used to kickstart Daye’s expansion into the U.S. market, with investment also coming from global venture capital firm MassMutual Ventures and Canadian venture capital company Cross Border Impact Ventures.
The company has raised more than $20 million to date, with other backers including Martin Varsavsky, founder of Prelude, the largest chain of fertility clinics in the world, Anne Wojcicki, founder of 23andMe, American venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, London-based Kindred Capital and a number of angels.
This female-led, gynaecological health startup was founded in 2017 and launched in March 2020 with the aim of delivering a platform for gynaecological health through tampons. Sounds trivial or simple? Not really. When the company initially launched it introduced the world’s first CBD-coated tampon, and although there was so much buzz around CBD and menstrual health ever since the femtech movement started in 2016, not many knew about the connection between CBD and painful periods.
A recent study revealed positive results from a six-month, randomized clinical trial studying the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on menstrual-related symptoms. The study was conducted in collaboration with Dr Jessica G. Irons and Morgan L. Ferretti at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Nearly 75% of reproductive-aged menstruating individuals reported experiencing unpleasant menstrual-related symptoms, ranging from cramping and bloating to back pain and shifts in mood including irritability and stress. Results showed "significantly reduced menstrual-related symptoms over the six months period compared to a one-month baseline, so this study marks the first exploration of the effects of cannabinoids on symptom management".
So how does Daye’s tampon actually work? It delivers 100mg of targeted, medical-grade, Cannabidiol extracts directly to the cramping area, during your period. The vaginal canal is richly saturated with endocannabinoid receptors, which are known to modulate our response to pain. Daye’s tampon is also the only tampon to have achieved ISO 13485 certification, meaning it reaches the highest standards possible for medical devices.
Vaginal Microbiome Screening Kit
Now, Daye is taking the innovation further with the introduction of its diagnostic tampon aimed initially at facilitating vaginal microbiome screening, as well as STI and HPV screening in the near future. For Valentina Milanova, founder of Daye, there is no doubt tampons can break the cycle of poor innovation in gynaecological health. They can be used to administer medications directly to the vagina and can also serve as a better sample collection method for more accurate vaginal health diagnostics. Yet, the potential of tampons has largely been overlooked.
“This is partially due to the high levels of monopolisation in the tampon industry. We’re aiming to fight this through vertical integration. Beyond an R&D and a biotech company, Daye is also a design engineering company, which designs its own products and production lines. With the launch of our vaginal microbiome screening service this week, we want to democratise access to comprehensive gynaecological care. The vaginal microbiome is a key predictor of a number of different gynaecological health factors, from one’s risk of STIs to how likely one is to have a successful IVF cycle. Yet, like many other areas of female health, the vaginal microbiome has been underresearched and overlooked,” she explains.
Studies have shown that vaginal conditions often go undiagnosed - up to 70% of female pathogens are asymptomatic. Further, nearly 50% of bacterial vaginosis (BV) patients are asymptomatic. For Milanova, this is particularly problematic when it comes to undiagnosed STIs and HPV, which can lead to infertility and cervical cancer. In addition, BV is known to increase one’s risk of pre-term labour.
Daye’s Vaginal Microbiome Screen is the first in the world to use a menstrual tampon to collect a vaginal fluids sample. Traditionally, a person would need to go to a clinic where they would meet with a speculum and a swab. Daye’s 9-factor comprehensive Vaginal Microbiome Screen means a woman can take the sample at home with a product she is familiar with and has used for years. This saves time, effort and cost.
“The process is very simple, similar to the Covid-19 test kits we have become accustomed to. The kit gets delivered to your door, and once you collect your sample, you send it back to an accredited lab to be analysed,” shares Milanova. The labs mentioned are UKAS-accredited, which stands for the “National Accreditation Body for the United Kingdom appointed by the government, that assesses and accredits organisations that provide services including certification, testing, inspection and calibration”.
As part of the screen, Daye is also introducing its telemedical gynaecological health platform, which will initially provide access to treatments for vaginal infections and will later expand to contraception, as well as treatments for PCOS and endometriosis. “We also connect our community with vetted, empathetic physicians, who specialise in gynaecological health, and who can provide personalised support,” adds Milanova.
Bridging The Gender Gap In Medical Research And Innovation
Having production in-house allows the company to run faster innovation cycles and to implement customer feedback into the design of the tampon. It's how Milanova and her team came up with sustainability-oriented solutions such as the flushable tampon wrapper, and the sugarcane applicator, and performance improvements such as the tampon’s superb absorbency and no-shed sleeve, which prevents tampon fibre build-up in the vagina.
“Our purpose is to bridge the gender gap in medical research and innovation, provide women with valuable insights about their gynae health and raise the overall standard of women’s health. To do this, we are delivering products rooted in scientific rigour, yet inspired by female intuition," Lisa Rodwell, CEO of Daye, shares with me.
When asked about the type of customers who use Daye’s products, Milanova and Rodwell share they are quite equally divided into three key groups:
· 20-28-year-olds who are deeply invested in sustainability
· 30-36-year-olds who are starting to think about their fertility and want to preserve their gynaecological health
· 38-45-year-olds who care to have access to scientifically-tested products for themselves, but also for their daughters, nieces, and friends.
“Our community relies on science, research and anecdotal evidence to find the best healthcare options, and is open to alternative medicine. Many of our customers, more often than not, are someone who has typically struggled to find the right form of gynaecological care that truly addresses their needs,” continues Milanova.
A lot of women find health examinations today overly invasive and time-consuming, and as a result, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of health appointments get missed every year.
In a recent ‘Women’s Health – Let’s talk about it’ survey conducted by the Department of Health and Social Care in the U.K., nearly 3 in 4 respondents (74%) thought that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a negative effect on women’s access to healthcare services. “Alongside general barriers experienced, such as a lack of GP appointments and limited access to mental health services, some women also reported delays to female cancer screening services and inadequate support during and post pregnancy.”
“This is where our comfortable, non-invasive tampon comes in. It has a further advantage that goes beyond comfort - it can increase the sensitivity and specificity of vaginal diagnostics, improving patient outcomes by reducing false negatives. We can serve a wide range of patient groups, adding value to those with active sex life, recurrent infection sufferers, women going through IVF and patients experiencing menopause, which means building a world where everyone can understand, monitor and improve their menstrual, sexual, hormonal and reproductive health,” concludes Milanova.
Link to original story here.