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Innovation Open finalist Bloomer HealthTech aims to close gender gap in women's health analytics

'Women are not tiny men,' says Bloomer co-founder Alicia Chong

Alicia Chong, cofounder of Bloomer Health Tech, adds cardiovascular analytics tools to a woman's undergarment.

January 24, 2018

Heart disease, often thought of as a male problem, is globally the No. 1 killer of women. The founders of Bloomer HealthTech, one of five finalists in the Feb. 2 ASU Innovation Open, decided to create an easy-to-use technological solution designed to understand and find solutions to close the gender gap for women’s health.

Bloomer incorporates biosensors into wearable, washable clothing to detect and record women’s heart health data, adding a much-needed dimension to solving cardiovascular problems. And, because most women who have heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents don’t experience warning symptoms, the goal is that the data sets will provide valuable insights for both patients and practitioners. 

“Women are not tiny men,” said Bloomer co-founder Alicia Chong, an MIT dual-degree doctoral student focused on computer science and integrated design and management. “Our bodies work differently than men’s — we have an entirely different physiology. Yet most medical devices are designed with men in mind.”

In fact, clinical-trial heart participants are about 25 women.

Chong and Monica Abarca, who has a master’s in management and policy from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, met in 2015 at Singularity University during a summit addressing global health challenges. 

“We were struck by the fact that women’s health research lags far behind that of our male counterparts,” Chong said. Aceil Halaby, who earned a master’s in engineering management at MIT last year, joined the team and began working on the first prototype, a washable bra.

So far, the team has developed about 18 prototypes, from sports bras to everyday varieties.

“They look like and wear like any bra,” Chong said. “We use flexible circuits that integrate into fabrics and are completely washable.”

The data is sent to the consumer’s phone and hosted on a cloud platform, at which point the user can decide whether to send it to a practitioner. The team is committed to making the data collection and reporting process HIPAA compliant. 

Bloomer HealthTech is seeking FDA clearance to establish medical-grade efficacy and begins clinical trials this month. 

According to Chong, the team believes the technology also will work for men, “once we catch up on women’s health.” 

The ASU Innovation Open finals are being held in Scottsdale on Friday, Feb. 2, with the winning team taking home a $100,000 prize. Avnet, the competition’s funding sponsor, provides ongoing resource support to all of the finalists, from business and marketing guidance to supply chain and technology solutions.

The finalists in the pitch competition are ASU teams HoolestAirGarage and Hygiea, and two MIT teams: Bloomer HealthTech and W8X.