A U.S.-based venture capital firm, Adjuvant Capital, has just announced a new $300 million fund focused on accelerating the development of medical innovations to tackle public health challenges, an urgent priority in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the venture capital world where only 2.4% of founding VC partners are female, Adjuvant Capital is also co-led and co-founded by a woman, Jenny Yip.
“Accelerating the widespread availability of emerging public health innovations is a smart business decision that has the potential to benefit millions of people, especially women and girls, in low-income countries,” said Jenny Yip, who is also a mother of two young children. Women are not only under-represented as investors and entrepreneurs, research has also found that they are also under-represented in medical research in some major disease types, such as HIV and chronic kidney disease.
There has also been less research funding into diseases that disproportionately affect women. In the U.K., there is less than 2.5% of publicly funded research is dedicated solely to reproductive health, despite the prevalence of reproductive health problems affecting women – 50% of the population. Adjuvant Capital has already invested in is Evofem, a female-led venture set out to prevent common sexually transmitted diseases and improve global access to birth control.
Research by Global Health 50/50, an initiative at the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health seeking to drive gender equality in global health, has found that only 5% of private sector organisations and 7% of funders were found to be taking gender-transformative approaches to global health. Moreover, only 12% of private sector organisations and 21% of funders are collecting sex-disaggregated data – so often times, there is no way of knowing whether global health challenges are affecting women and men differently. But if global health investors such as Adjuvant Capital are taking a more explicit gender approach, will these statistics change?
Among the investors in Adjuvant Capital are Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and CDC Group (U.K.’s Development Finance Institution), which have also adopted strong gender lens investing strategies, as part of their broader focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). “The Fund’s strategy strongly aligns with our own belief in promoting health equity for the most economically disadvantaged, particularly children and women in LMICs,” said Imraan Mohammed, Head of Impact Investing at The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), which has also invested into Adjuvant Capital.
As the world begins vaccinating people against Covid-19, the disparity between the high-income countries and LMICs has never been starker, as the latter lags far behind in vaccinations. Yip’s vision to “accelerate the widespread availability of emerging public health innovations” is an urgent priority, and taking a gender lens in funding public health – to ensure gender equitable recovery – is also more important than ever.