More women are starting high-growth companies in health care. (Credit: Unsplash, Bee Naturalles Laboratory)
More women are starting high-growth companies in health care. (Credit: Unsplash, Bee Naturalles Laboratory)

For female-founded tech startups, finding funding is notoriously difficult. But a recent study shows that women are getting a significant amount of backing in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector.

Female pharma and biotech companies compromise 27 percent of all venture capital investments so far in 2019, which is a 10 percent increase from 2009.

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“I’m not at all surprised by the fact that women have done well in healthcare sector companies,” said Deb Kilpatrick, CEO of Evidation Health, who shared her startup story in the new PitchBook and All Raise report, Women in the VC Ecosystem.  “If you look at trends of students graduating from biomedical engineering over the past few years, women have gone from a minority to the majority.”

Kilpatrick said many graduates of biomedical engineering programs land at healthcare startups. Cities like Boston are a particular hub for women who start businesses in the pharma and biotech industry, thanks to the proximity of MIT and Harvard University.

Kilpatrick added that studies done on female STEM students suggest they are more likely to end up in mission-driven companies or areas that support society, which may explain the rise in women-led health-centric startups.

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One other potential explanation is that many women make healthcare decisions for their families, so women are more likely to see problems in the industry that need solving, she said.

The report noted that “every year since 2015 has seen at least 200 investments in female-founded startups in the pharma and biotech sector.”

Since 2016, a quarter of pharma and biotech founders have been women. Female-founded pharma and biotech startups took in a record $5 billion in financial backing in 2018, and 2019 will likely have a similar number, the report found.

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