Bloomer raises $3m to embed ECG into smart bra
March 24, 2020
MIT-spinoff Bloomer Tech has raised $3m in a seed funding round to commercialise a clinical grade, heart monitoring smart bra for cardiovascular disease.
The bra uses washable, flexible electronic circuits that can be embedded into fabrics. Bluetooth is used to transfer the readings to an app on a smartphone. The technology informs users about their electrocardiograms, pulse rates, respiratory rates, heart rhythms and more. The app gives information on key metrics and provides interactive tools to help women improve their heart health. The user has the choice of sharing the information gathered to caregivers or doctors, giving them direct access to patient specific insights.
Material Impact led the funding round and was joined by One Brave Idea and several prominent angels including John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific.
Bloomer is tackling the leading cause of death in women with the world’s first electrocardiogram device that looks and feels like a bra. By embedding patented, medical-grade fabric sensors and machine learning algorithms into a garment that women wear every day, Bloomer provides users and doctors with access to heart health data.
“As women in stem, we are keenly aware that digital health and AI tools are tuned to the people who are represented in the datasets,” said Alicia Chong, CEO of Bloomer. “So when we realised that women have been woefully underrepresented in clinical research, especially in cardiovascular diseases, we had to take action. At Bloomer we are eliminating healthcare imbalances by replacing an uncomfortable piece of plastic with a beautiful piece of clothing that empowers women to feel sexy instead of sick. This seamless and comfortable monitoring experience prevents algorithm biases and unlocks new, sex-specific digital biomarkers that can more accurately provide personalised care for patients.”
The femtech sector has shown explosive growth, with close to $1bn of funding going into femtech start-ups in 2019 alone. Forbes predicts that the space is poised to become a $25bn industry within the next five years.
Material Impact, the Massachusetts-based VC fund leading Bloomer’s round, sees the investment as core to its thesis of translating products enabled by materials innovation into companies that solve real-world problems. In 2019, Material Impact led the $9m series A of femtech start-up NextGen Jane.
Adam Sharkawy, co-founder and managing partner of Material Impact and a former cardiovascular healthcare executive, will be serving as Bloomer’s chair of the board.
“Bloomer addresses some gaping needs in cardiovascular health, one of the largest spaces in healthcare overall,” said Sharkawy. “There has been little innovation in the past several decades in clinical grade remote cardiac monitoring. Bloomer’s current soft electronics technology combined with its elegant form factor should allow for effective remote monitoring that patients will actually wear. In addition, the high-fidelity data they will collect will help to fill a large void in female-specific datasets, which may drive better cardiovascular therapies for women. At Material Impact, we aim to invest in category-creating companies poised to solve some of the world’s largest problems. Alongside other investments in femtech, we are dedicated to building a focus in women’s health.”
One Brave Idea, an investor in Bloomer, was established to pursue unconventional scientific approaches to make major advances in the fight against coronary heart disease. Calum MacRae who leads the One Brave Idea team, is the vice chair of scientific innovation for the Department of Medicine at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
“Our mission at One Brave Idea is to change how coronary heart disease is detected, managed and prevented,” said MacRae. “To do that we need to engage with patients in new ways, breaking down the traditional barriers between patient care, research and their daily lives. Bloomer’s ground-breaking technology has the capacity to monitor and identify new biologic mechanisms that contribute to heart disease. We are really excited to work with Bloomer and their transformative patient-centred platform.”
Bloomer has already had early traction with women’s heart programmes at hospitals in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. With paid pilots planned for 2020, Bloomer will use its seed funding to expand its pilot programme, collect key clinical data and further develop the commercial product and user experience.
It's that emphasis on an invisible user experience and a healthy relationship with technology that made Bloomer such a fit to participate in the Project Entrepreneur accelerator at Thrive Global in 2018. There, Chong met Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global and advisor to Bloomer, who was instrumental in helping the MIT-spinoff translate its big idea into a business.
“Thrive Global’s mission is to end the stress and burnout epidemic with sustainable, science-based solutions that unlock human potential and enhance well-being,” said Huffington. “Bloomer is arming women with the tools they need to take their heart health into their own hands. It’s when we can understand how our lifestyle choices impact our health outcomes that we truly have the power to change our lives for the better.”
The Bloomer Bra is an electrocardiogram device that looks and feels like a bra. The patented technology platform leverages over 20 years of evidence-based research showing sex and ethnicity-related differences in the cardiovascular system enabling women, researchers and care providers to learn from each individual’s unique physiology and provide data-driven care.
Bloomer Tech and its founders have been supported by the MIT Legatum Center and have been part of MIT's Delta V accelerator at the Martin Trust Center, the MIT Integrated Design & Management programme and the MIT Computational Cardiovascular Research Group.