With every year, more scientists and academics are very specifically trying to lengthen the lifespan of humans and to ensure that those extra years are worth living. Some of these teams are focused on detecting cancer earlier as a means of extending longevity; some are working to improve people’s metabolism.
A small but growing group is also beginning to focus on menopause, which impacts half the population as whose onset is associated with a long list of health conditions, from higher blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides, which a form of fat in the blood, to, even more frighteningly, a greater risk of breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
The newest outfit focused on the cause is Gameto, which says it wants to solve the problem of “accelerated” ovarian aging to change the trajectory of women’s health and equality.
As explained by the company’s cofounder and CEO, Dina Radenkovic, who studied medicine at University College London and has spent most of her career in computational medicine, ovaries age up to five times faster than any organ in the sense that they stop working far earlier than, say, the liver, or brain, or even skin. While women are born with a certain number of ovocytes — an immature female sex cell that later gives rise to fully mature ovum or egg cell — they eventually run out of these, at which point their ovaries stop functioning as an organ and stop producing the hormones that control women’s physiology.
Gameto wants to help delay that process, or even push it off forever if a woman chooses, by developing a platform for ovarian therapeutics that will initially be used to improve the process of assisted fertility and hopefully, eventually, be used to identify cell therapies that can prevent what Radenkovic describes as the “medical burden” of menopause. Radenkovic is loath to dive into specifics, but she says that broadly, as things stand today, the young company has developed cell types for the former and are currently testing whether these ovarian supporting cells could help mature eggs and reduce the number of IVF cycles that many women who are hoping to become pregnant currently endure.
“We have strong preclinical evidence to to believe in our platform,” she adds of the company, which is chaired by serial entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky, whose last company, Prelude Fertility, has create a nationwide network of fertility centers across the U.S.
Some notable investors are willing to bet on the company, too. Gameto just raised $20 million in funding led by Future Ventures, whose cofounder, Maryanna Saenko, says the firm is “deeply excited about the prospect of a better standard of care for women undergoing menopause. The suffering caused by menopause is not a biological imperative, and the many complications that come along with menopause, particularly early-onset menopause, can be entirely avoided” along with today’s hormone replacement therapies, which she describes as “blunt hammers, lacking personalization.”
Other participants include Bold Capital Partners, Lux Capital, Plum Alley, TA Ventures, Overwater Ventures, Arch Venture Partners cofounder Robert Nelsen and 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki.
Gameto had previously raised $3 million in seed funding last year, including from Atomic founder Jack Abraham, SALT Fund, FJ Labs, Coatue Management founder Dan Rose and Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.
Certainly, the market opportunity is huge and the thesis — given that people are living longer — makes a lot of sense. Indeed, look for other startups to begin focusing more squarely on delaying menopause.
Already, Gameto has some competition, including from Celmatix, a 12-year-old company that’s creating a drug program to slow the depletion of a woman’s ovarian reserve and that similarly hopes to separate a woman’s endocrine function from reproduction. In the past, according to Fortune, the company has received a grant Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work on nonhormonal contraceptives and early last year, it announced a separate a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Bayer and the drug development company Evotec.
Researchers have meanwhile been looking into the issue of treating menopause as a treatable disease for at least several years. You can check an earlier paper from 2019 here.