Interview by Bridget Johnson
Celmatix is a women’s health company that uses genomics and big data to empower women to make more informed decisions about their reproductive health. Clever Tech had the opportunity to talk with Angie Lee, the Chief Product Officer at Celmatix. This groundbreaking company is changing our understanding of women’s health. During our interview, Lee spoke about the harmful disparity between women’s and men’s health and how technology and big data can bridge that gap. Angie is bringing humanity and technology together to empower women.
What does Celmatix do?
We’ve narrowed reproductive health down to two things: genetic and clinical. The clinical part is what you have in your body at any given time like your hormones or your anatomy. We say, “For 100 women with your clinical metrics after ‘x’ amount of time will get pregnant.” If you want to explore other options like IVF and donor eggs we can also say, “Here is what it looks like for success rates with someone with your exact clinical metrics.” We also have a genetic test called Fertilome which gives you insights into your genetic profile. Do you have markers that could impact your ability to conceive? Are you at risk for early menopause? Up until today, there have been few tools that allow women to understand their bodies on a genetic level. Someone who has a painful period has a hard time getting a diagnosis. Now, we can look at their genetics and say, “Yes, you are at a higher risk of endometriosis. Let’s start there.” We're hoping to help women understand their genetic and clinical biology and to make informed decisions.
Why hasn’t this been done before?
We ask ourselves that all the time. Women’s health is tremendously underfunded, even at a governmental level. As we talk about Celmatix and our products out in the world, women instantly get it, but it’s hard to get this story across to men. When we were fundraising years ago, we heard, “Women’s health is too niche for us.” Are you kidding me? Fifty-one percent of the population is too niche? Consider birth control; one of the top reasons that women discontinue birth control is side effects. Imagine a world in which women could know beforehand the best birth control for their bodies? The vision is to leverage biological information to fine tune a woman’s reproductive care. We are just now understanding the potential out there and are incredibly proud to be the pioneers laying the foundation for other companies. We welcome people to join us!
How do we make a transparent loop between consumers and technology?
People need to understand the limits of technology. When does it have value and when does it just add noise? How do we build a dialogue about the responsibility technology has to humans and the responsibility humans have to technology?
How does Celmatix fit into the existing technology and consumer model?
Typically when people think about technology and fertility, they think of technology as solving fertility problems. Women are getting married later, staying in their careers longer before deciding to have children. I want to create a world in which all women can do both: build an empire and build a family. The conversation has mainly been focused on time management and balance, but the real challenge is that our ancestors had a much shorter life expectancy and our biology has not changed. Therefore, women are making choices about their family building and careers outside of their personal biology. We want women to have the information and options to build whatever kind of family they want.
What is the “Say the “F Word” campaign?
We want more women to be involved in the dialogue about fertility, the “F Word,” and to say, “I’m gonna talk to my girlfriends about my fertility,” and “I’m gonna talk to my partner about my fears,” another ‘F Word.” When we surveyed 1000 women about how they talk about fertility, we learned that they are not talking about their fertility--their difficulties, their fears, their plans--with other people in their lives. They aren’t even talking to their partners or their doctors. Twenty percent of women who have a miscarriage don’t even tell their partners about it. Think about the pain that these people are going through alone even though so many women experience a miscarriage. If we can get women to talk about it and say, “We should not be ashamed of our bodies,” then they can get the care and support they deserve.
Where do you fit into this new data-driven world?
We were really surprised that there wasn’t a place where clinics and physicians were compiling information across organizations to learn everything they can about women. In creating Polaris, our product, we partnered with physicians and clinics across the U.S. to assemble one of the largest databases that looks at fertility. A lot of the healthcare world is stuck in old-school ways. If you stay with the way you were trained, you are not going to have a sense of possibility. If you assemble your thousands of patients’ information, you can identify trends and patterns. By providing this information, we are doing a service for all women and for the women’s healthcare industry. We want to come together to create the next innovations, determining what can be instead what has always been.
People used to say, “The biggest, most innovative technology comes from the healthcare space.” What’s interesting about the current tech revolution is that this narrative is playing out in reverse, new technology provides doctors and patients with more treatment options. We rely on technology to solve all of our problems from receiving better healthcare to commuting from point A to point B. Consumers are driving innovation, and that is fundamentally changing the way people interact with technology.