Healthcare incubator and innovation hub MATTER is launching 51 Labs, an accelerator focused on women’s health. The name stems from the fact that women are 51 percent of the population. The inaugural year’s program is focused on menopausal transition and includes partners Astellas Pharma US, Walgreens, Parkview Health and University of Chicago Medicine.

Women’s health has long been underfunded and under-innovated, given the scale of the needs and opportunities. There are hundreds of conditions and diseases that affect only or mostly women, or that present differently in women — such as menopause, breast cancer and heart disease. Despite its prevalence, women’s health has inaccurately been categorized as a niche space, with only five percent of all U.S. digital health funding going to women’s health startups according to data presented by digital health venture fund Rock Health.

The inaugural 51 Labs accelerator cohort will focus on advancing solutions that empower and support women during their menopausal transition. Women experience any combination of 34 different symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood and mental health changes, weight gain, brain fog, worsening memory, painful intercourse and more. There has been relatively little innovation focused on menopause, and with 1.3 million U.S. women entering their menopausal transition each year, this life stage is prime for innovation. Menopause is further compounded by disparate health outcomes for women who have been historically marginalized. For example, Black women+ enter menopause earlier than white women+, experience worse symptoms and are less likely to receive treatment.

“51 Labs is a new opportunity for entrepreneurs focused on solving women+’s health challenges to rapidly accelerate their progress. Our first year’s cohort, focused on menopause, will benefit greatly from the engagement with Astellas, Walgreens and our health system partners,” said Steven Collens, CEO of MATTER.

The 2022 program will have two tracks — one focused on menopause awareness and identification, and another on symptom and lifestyle management. With Parkview Health and University of Chicago Medicine’s focus on providing accessible, integrated care for their diverse patient populations, both tracks will focus on sourcing solutions that address the needs of underrepresented women.

Applications for the 12-week accelerator are now open. Participating startups will benefit from one-on-one mentoring with industry experts, workshops, interactive roundtable discussions, forums and more. The program will culminate with a showcase in March 2023.

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