Women are 51% of the population, so how can the specific health needs of women not be a market?” says Keren Leshem, CEO of Ocon Healthcare. She spoke to Shirly Kolet on Lunch Study and shared her views on FemTech and some about her own experiences as a pharma executive, originally from ophthalmology and in recent years as a FemTech trailblazer.
Keren is happy to have a space like FemTech that’s focused on women. It’s been unifying. Although she points out that much of the activity is focused on digital health and devices, and less on therapeutics. She wants to bring options that women can choose. There is no one size fits all. She has been involved in raising over $100 million dollars through her career. And she notes that the 1st Million is the hardest to raise. After that they all feel the same, she jests. But for FemTech the challenge is that 1st million because most investments are small and spread across many small companies. “Checks are small and what if small companies could join together to increase their footprint under one umbrella?” She views the company she leads, Ocon, as possibly providing that opportunity down the lane.
To raise money, know the regulatory environment, understand reimbursement, and map out the go-to-market landscape. If you’re an Israeli company considering the US, know that the market is 100% different than Israel. There are 0% similarities
“3 years and 20kg” is the way Keren describes her time at Ocon… with a smile.” The company has pivoted from a copper product and despite robust IP it still faced major challenges, including from investors. She mentions telling the board at some point “you guys would be crazy to shut down this company…one in six women suffer from endometriosis…”
Keren says they are not looking to remove options that exist on the market (such as hysterectomy), but rather to create options using therapeutics. She jokes that she’s trying to “exit these products to the market,” using the double word meaning of exiting a company.
She hopes that one day Ocon will join forces with a major pharmaceutical company. Ocon will bring robust R&D and the big company will leverage their substantial footprint for advocacy and marketing, targeting a family of therapeutics to a single medical specialty. She wants to turn therapeutics from Ocon into the standard of care.
“Keren, what makes you successful?” First, it’s knowledge. Become a subject matter expert. Second, network!!! We cannot do it without a network and someone to lean on. And third, have guts. You have to be tenacious. But also, wake up and go to sleep with a smile.
The recently approved “Menstrual leave” that was passed into law in Spain comes up. Keren is annoyed and explains this only widens the gender gap, effectively telling women, you can do even less, you cannot work on these days. Instead, Keren says, take all that money and put it towards treating menstrual pain. “I want equity.”