Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Exclusive: Teal Health debuts for women's virtual cancer screenings

Illustration of a phone wearing a doctor's coat and a stethoscope.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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.

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.
Go deeper