Exclusive: Teal Health debuts for women's virtual cancer screenings
Teal Health wants to power women's virtual health screenings, starting with cervical cancer.
Why it matters: The San Francisco startup raised $8.8 million in seed funding from Emerson Collective, Serena Ventures, Metrodora Ventures and Felicis Ventures, Teal CEO Kara Egan tells Axios exclusively.
- Teal will use the funds to speed product development, continue clinical testing and pursue FDA clearance for its first test.
- Egan says the company will likely raise a Series A within a year.
Context: Cervical cancer screenings fell dramatically during the pandemic and have yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
- The CDC estimates that some 93% of cases of the disease could be prevented with early screening and vaccinations.
- "There’s a big awareness piece here," Egan tells Axios. "A lot of people don’t know what pap smears are for. I feel like mammogram and breast cancer are synonymous but Pap smear and cervical cancer are not."
Between the lines: There is currently no FDA-cleared self-test for HPV (the virus that causes cervical cancer), and screenings are conducted via Pap smear.
- A 2013 meta-analysis of 10 studies published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health concluded that people were twice as likely to do an HPV self-collected test than they were to visit a clinician for a Pap smear.
- "HPV self-sampling significantly improves the participation of women in cervical cancer screening," the study authors wrote.
Yes, but: Some at-home HPV tests do exist, but because none have been thoroughly tested or received federal regulatory clearance, clinicians recommend avoiding them.
How it [would] work: Teal is testing a self-collection device that, if cleared, would enable women to take a cervical cancer screening sample at home in conjunction with virtual support from a provider.
- The process would look similar to a traditional Pap smear, without use of a speculum.
- "The experience is similar to, and arguably a little easier, than putting in a tampon," Egan says.
- Patients would then send in their results and view them as part of a telehealth visit — and could return to the service for ongoing support.
- The company plans to take a B2B approach and work with health plans to offer the service, she adds.
Be smart: Egan was hesitant to detail specifics of the self-collection device, noting the nuances of the collection process are dependent on regulatory feedback.
State of play: Teal joins a bevy of new and existing companies focused on women's health and home testing, but it would be the first startup to offer a home screening specific to cervical cancer.
- Turtle Health in December raised $5.4 million in seed capital for its endeavor to replicate a full-scale fertility evaluation in the home.
- Oula this month collected $19 million in Series A financing for virtual and in-person maternity care.
- Everly Health in 2021 raised $75 million and in February 2022 was exploring a partnership that would enable it to offer its early-detection home cancer test to employers.
Of note, Egan says Teal is emphasizing diversity and cultural inclusion in its hiring and telehealth processes.
- The company uses a blinded system to hire staff and aims to "map the diversity that’s out there onto the diversity of our providers," she adds.
- Teal is also designing its online materials to visually represent a diverse patient population and offer its services in multiple languages.
What they're saying: Egan sees potential for Teal to expand into more telehealth services for women.
- "The health care system has not been designed for women," Egan says. "This is a way to design for them and hopefully layer on more."
- "If we do what I think we can do, there’s potential to be a truly at-scale provider," Egan says.