Partnership with NHS Kent and Medway opens up opportunities to reduce inequalities around women’s health investment

Discovery Park, part of a growing regional life science cluster in Kent, wants to bring an end to the inequality faced by female science entrepreneurs – by setting up a growth programme focused entirely on them.

At present just 2 percent of venture capital money goes to female founded business, with even women’s health related research more likely to receive investment if a man is at the helm.

The issue is one of the challenges Discovery Park is seeking to address as part of its partnership with NHS Kent and Medway with the finishing touches being put to a growth programme for companies working in the women’s health space.

Jane Kennedy, Chief Business Officer, Discovery Park, said: “What I have found since coming here to Kent two-and-a-half years ago is a fantastic desire to work with us from the NHS. I’ve never experienced that anywhere including a science park based at a hospital site.

“NHS Kent and Medway are keen to work with us, particularly around things like women’s health which is a really interesting area. Female founded businesses, for example, don’t attract investment in the same way that male founder business do. Only 2% of venture capital money goes to female founded businesses.

“Women’s health you’d think would be led by female founders. Here’s an interesting stat for you. For the last, I think, five years, more women’s health companies, which were founded by men, have been funded than women’s health companies that were founded by women. So even in women’s health, men still get the money.  Go figure that if you will.

Discovery Park Ventures, the science park’s own investment fund set up to support and mentor exciting innovators with novel ideas has invested in eight companies to date – The majority of those businesses have a woman on the founding team.

“NHS Kent and Medway have women’s health as a core priority. We’re working with them now to deliver a growth programme for companies working in the women’s health space.

“We’ll put them through a series of different programmes to help them really refine what they’re doing and get them investor ready and then what we will bring to the piece is bringing in enlightened investors who are interested in investing in female founder businesses and women’s health care and help take those ideas forward to the next stage.

“People working in the NHS see the challenges in women’s health care that they need to address, and we can bring the environment and the investors to the mix to make it happen.”

The approach could help fund more research into women’s health, in areas such as cardiology where testing for new drugs and treatments is largely bases on male not female experience.

Jane Kennedy, Chief Business Officer, Discovery Park, added: “The stats around women’s health are horrendous, So, for example, as a woman, you are more likely to die of a heart attack than you are to die of breast cancer.

“Now, if you think about the amount of money that goes into awareness for breast cancer, as opposed to the amount of money that goes into research in women having heart attacks, because it’s still perceived to be a male problem.

“Yet the way that women present when they’re having a heart attack is totally different to the way that men present. So, a lot of women don’t know that they’re at risk from heart disease, and don’t know what the symptoms are.

“Then you draw down into that and you look at the drugs that are being developed, how many of them have actually been clinically trialled on women? Because women’s physiology in reaction to a drug is totally different to a man.

“The other factor is that many drugs aren’t tested on women. Since thalidomide, people don’t like to test drugs on women, because, you know, the effect that might have on their ability to have children.

“So, drugs tend to be tested on men, money tends to go into male diseases, rather than female diseases, and then awareness, even in terms of social health doesn’t happen because women don’t know they’re at risk of heart attacks.

All of the challenges around that require a multidisciplinary approach in order to address those challenges It’s about bringing the right people to the table to have the right discussion, and that’s why this work with NHS Kent and Medway is so important.”

  • Discovery Park will be celebrating International Women’s Day with a morning of talks and panel discussions featuring a line-up of innovative women at all stages of their careers. From breaking barriers to fostering innovation, the discussions will touch upon various aspects of business navigation and leadership.

The day will feature the inaugural presentation of the Discovery Park Inspirational Women Awards, showcasing inspiring women as chosen by the Discovery Park community. To reserve your place at this free event and access the full agenda visit:

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