Mar 19, 2024 - News

Cambridge startup launching clinical trial for bra tracking heart health

Bloomer Tech co-founder Alicia Chong Rodriguez, left, holds a phone app tracking data collected by the Bloomer Tech bra, held by another member of the Bloomer Tech team, right.

Bloomer Tech co-founders Alicia Chong Rodriguez, left, and Aceil Halaby, right, show how the bra's health data shows up on an app through bluetooth signals. Photo: Courtesy of Bloomer Tech

A Cambridge-based startup is about to launch a clinical trial for bras that could help detect heart irregularities and other conditions that can lead to heart disease.

Why it matters: Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, yet they're under-diagnosed and under-treated.

State of play: Bloomer Tech received a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health last year to start a clinical trial on its medical device, a bra outfitted with flexible, washable sensors.

  • The company is enlisting women undergoing cardiac rehab to join the trial, says founder Alicia Chong Rodriguez.

Zoom in: The bra, which the co-founders started developing nearly a decade ago at MIT, collects data about your cardiovascular system, hormones and metabolism, showing the results on an app.

  • It comes in 12 sizes, ranging from 32B to 44C.
  • The device underwent a feasibility study in 2018 and other tests with humans before Bloomer Tech prepared for the latest clinical trial.

The big picture: Bloomer Tech is one of several emerging women-led startups trying to address the gender gap in health care, which has led to less clinical trial representation and fewer resources to diagnose and treat women with various diseases.

  • Chong Rodriguez attended the ARPA-H summit last month, where First Lady Jill Biden announced a $100 million investment in women's health research.
  • President Biden yesterday signed an executive order to strengthen data collection and provide better funding opportunities for biomedical research in hopes of advancing women's health research.
  • "It's unbelievable and unacceptable that it's still harder to recognize, diagnose and treat women with heart disease," says Chong Rodriguez, who was 13 when her grandmother, an obstetrician, died from the illness in Peru.

The intrigue: Bloomer Tech's product challenges what a conventional medical device looks like, just as activist Amelia Bloomer challenged women's fashion in the 19th century.

  • Bloomer encouraged women to ditch corsets for the loose-fitting pantaloons that were eventually named after her.
  • "Sometimes people look at our product and they think it's a consumer device," Chong says.
  • "The fact that it still doesn't click that it's a medical device, it's interesting to me how we reinvented a medical device to look like something that goes in your closet."
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