Women’s health

Biomedical/pharma, Clinical care, Personal/public health, Women’s health

In a world where our health is paramount, fatty liver disease, known as metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD), is climbing the ranks of health concerns we can't afford to ignore. Imagine your liver, which controls over 500 vital functions, including the body's detox powerhouse, getting clogged with fat. Alarmingly, about 30% of people globally are wrestling against this silent epidemic. It's a complex disease with various risk factors, especially related to gender and sex hormonal differences, making a one-size-fits-all treatment difficult.
Belgium is one of the top countries in the world for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Despite the high cumulative success rates of these interventions, disproportionally little attention has been given to the health of both mother and child during and after pregnancy. With the HEART (High risk for pre-Eclampsia after Assisted Reproductive Technology) project, Belgian researchers strive to understand why some women have an increased risk for pre-eclampsia after IVF and whether biomarkers can be identified to estimate these risks early in pregnancy or even before conception. They aim to raise the standard from successful conception to improved child and maternal health.
While a vast majority of women experience vaginal yeast infections, research has fallen short in providing an effective treatment approach. However, hope has emerged recently with the development of new model systems that allow exploration of the complex vaginal environment. Organ-on-chip models enable researchers to examine the interactions between human cells and microbes in a more accurate manner, offering the potential for the development of new therapies.
Even though endometriosis impacts millions of women globally, the condition remains poorly understood and researched, leading to delayed diagnosis and lack of effective treatment. Encouragingly, there are promising recent developments in the field coming from Belgium. Professor Hugo Vankelecom’s research group at KU Leuven uses advanced cellular models, known as organoids, to delve into the disease and expedite the drug discovery process. The Danish BioInnovation Institute now offers the team an incubation program to pave the way towards industrial success.
It’s been a Barbie world this summer with crowds of pink-clad moviegoers flooding the cinemas. Simultaneously, we’ve been witnessing a rush of ‘pink’ fundraising for women’s health start-ups. From pre-clinical to clinical: more companies are entering the field and developing solutions for women’s unique needs. But is their focus broad and innovative enough? And are pharma companies paying attention?
After a therapeutic drug hits the market, it is crucial to continuously gather, analyze, and report data regarding its safety and potential side effects, a practice known as pharmacovigilance. Unlike clinical trials, this involves real-world data (RWD), presenting unique challenges in terms of both quality and quantity. The Belgian BELpREG project seeks to employ RWD for monitoring drug utilization during pregnancy and investigating potential safety implications for both maternal and child health. This initiative holds great promise, although it faces substantial hurdles on its path to success.
Femtech is a growing field that has rapidly expanded from niche market to global ecosystem. From period-tracking apps and smart pelvic floor trainers to wearable breast pumps – both start-ups and well-established multinationals are prioritizing tech innovation in women’s health. But are investors keeping up with this trend, or is the strong gender skew in venture capital hampering the femtech field?
The microbiome has been a trending scientific topic in recent years. Researchers have uncovered correlations between the human microbiome and a wide range of diseases and health states, ranging from digestive issues to mental wellbeing. But no matter how fascinating these academic findings may be, translating them into concrete clinical applications remains a challenge. How can we enable more efficient clinical valorization of microbiome insights, and pave the way from pattern to patient?
It has been a year with ups and downs for Mithra – the Liège-based specialist in women’s health. The company experienced huge success with its pioneering contraceptive pill Estelle, which became available in regions all over the world. But the company also discontinued the research program of another product, PeriNesta, developed to battle symptoms arising during menopause. Overall the company is doing good work though, developing innovations in a field that has historically been neglected.