Virtus Health and UNSW Founders join forces to foster women's health innovation

WOMEN’S HEALTH startup businessess can now apply to an Australian-first women’s health accelerator program. Virtus Health and UNSW Founders have partnered to launch a dedicated women’s health stream of the Health 10x Accelerator Program.

Virtus Health CEO Kate Munnings said the ongoing gap in women’s health innovation in Australia – and globally – was the driver behind the new partnership.

“Today, healthtech startups face numerous challenges on the pathway to commercialisation,” Ms Munnings said. “As one of the world’s leading Assisted Reproductive Service providers, Virtus Health wanted to play a bigger part in supporting women’s health startups to find the best innovation which can improve care for women and their families.” 

The Health 10x Accelerator Program focused on women’s health aims to equip startups with business expertise and resources needed to understand the health technology ecosystem, build their company and drive impact through commercialisation.

“Virtus Health is hoping to find startup innovations that are patient-centric and women-centric in design,” Ms Munnings said. “We are interested in finding deep technologies, AI, machine learning, precision medicine, anything that incorporates big data.”

Head of new ventures for Virtus Health, Associate Professor Vin Smith, explained the focus of the UNSW Founders partnership was to seek out innovations that “are truly going to deliver clinical benefit for patients”.

“That will make care safer, faster, a better experience, and reduce costs – the quadruple aim in healthcare,” Prof. Smith said.

Assistance added to funding

Virtus Health’s investment into the Health 10x program is more than financial. Women’s health startups will also receive in-kind commercialisation support.

“We’ll help the startups with access to our experts, business intelligence in the IVF sector, clinical trial capability and market access across the Virtus network,” Prof. Smith said.

“The best startup accelerator programs know how to commercialise, and UNSW Founders have built a strong track record in providing tailored commercialisation support to health startups over the last four years.

“Virtus brings to this partnership an ability to help startups test in a clinical environment,” Prof. Smith said.

Kate Munnings said, “At Virtus everything we do is evidence-based. Our goal is to bring the best-in-class reproductive health technologies to market, by aiming to use the highest level of evidence as our guiding principles.

“As one of the biggest clinical trial operators in the healthcare sector, we want to help startups deliver new clinical technologies to patients in the best possible way.”

Virtus breaks new ground with venture capital

Health 10x Accelerator Program is the first for Virtus Health’s new corporate venture capital arm – Virtus Ventures. 

“At Virtus Ventures, we bring the clinical, the commercial and the technology together – a very strategic and focused approach to the commercialisation process,” Prof. Smith said.

Virtus Ventures has already collaborated with UNSW-affiliated startup Drop Bio, an Australian biotechnology and digital health company.

This first collaboration aims to improve IVF success rates by researching personalised inflammatory biomarker analysis. 

“We are focused on quality not quantity – we set high standards and engage with quality companies and work closely with the companies to make sure they are successful. It’s a powerful way Virtus Health is aiming to make a difference in the lives of women and their families,” Prof. Smith said.

Virtus Health CEO Kate Munnings said the company’s focus on empowering women’s startups was mirrored in Virtus’s leadership team.

“I’m proud to lead a reproductive health organisation where women hold the leadership roles that most impact service delivery,” she said.

“The collaboration with UNSW also sees prominent female leaders in healthcare, at the forefront of increasing innovation and health outcomes for women.”

UNSW Founders senior manager for medtech, Dina Titkova said, “One half of the world’s population is women, yet only a fraction of health solutions have been developed with women in mind. 

“UNSW Founders are excited to partner with Virtus Health to change this, starting with accelerating the business growth of reproductive health startups and with future vision of improving women’s health along the lifecycle globally.”

Virtus Health is the largest provider of fertility services in Australia. Clinics include Melbourne IVF, Queensland Fertility Group, IVFAustralia, TasIVF and The Fertility Centre.

UNSW Founders’ Health 10x program supports startups developing interventions, cures, and treatments that address the most pressing unmet medical needs, globally. Designed and delivered in partnership with The George’s Institute for Global Health (TGI), Health 10x is a national program providing Australian health entrepreneurs with the skills, network, facilities and capital to turn an idea into a global, scalable business. Since its launch in 2019, the program has helped more than 100 startups to help bring their ideas to life, and provided seed funding to 21 of them.


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