How Precision Medicine has Power to Transform Pregnancy Health: A Conversation with Foresite Capital’s Vik Bajaj and Mirvie’s Maneesh Jain

The state of maternal health is dire in the United States: it’s more dangerous for women to be pregnant today than it was for their own mothers.

By the numbers:

Vik Bajaj, Managing Director at Foresite Capital, and Maneesh JainMirvie CEO and Co-Founder, discuss why precision medicine represents the future of pregnancy health and why now is the time to create solutions that help solve the maternal health crisis.

The potential for precision medicine beyond cancer 

Maneesh: How has precision medicine changed the way you think about healthcare and what is the potential for it to go beyond the fields it was pioneered in, like oncology? 

Vik: In the early 2000s, precision medicine emerged as a groundbreaking strategy in cancer care where targeted therapies based on genetic profiles led to significant improvements in patient outcomes. Previously, care teams were limited to one-size-fits-all approaches that relied on chemotherapy and radiation with mixed results and low quality of life for patients. Today, thanks to precision medicine, they now have modern diagnostics and targeted therapies specific to the cancer and its genetic profile, optimizing benefits and minimizing harm — while improving survival rates. At the root of this innovation is the unique underlying biology of each individual cancer patient.

From lessons learned from oncology, we now have an opportunity to modernize fields of medicine that have long been neglected. Women’s health, and pregnancy health in particular, are fields ripe for transformation with precision medicine. This is why we’re so excited about Mirvie.

Maneesh: The future is bright for pregnancy health! We’re seeing a renaissance in research targeted toward understanding the biology of pregnancy. At Mirvie, we’re leading the charge by investing in landmark research and proving the efficacy of the RNA platform, which analyzes tens of thousands of RNA messages from the mother, baby, placenta, and uterus to understand the unique biology of each pregnancy. This opens the pathway to prediction and prevention, starting with a simple blood test.

Maneesh: So let’s dig into why precision medicine has the power to transform pregnancy health. How and why do you think that is?

Vik: I think pregnancy health now is where cancer was about 20 years ago, where we’re still creating the technology, validating the data, and discussing how to deploy proven innovations.

The urgency makes this field important to invest in because childbirth in the U.S. should not be life-threatening. Reflecting on oncology, while cancer still is a scourge that affects our loved ones – moms, dads, brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons – some forms of cancer are no longer a death sentence but more of a chronic condition because of precision medicine.

Maneesh: Pregnancy is more dangerous for women today than it was for their mothers. And it’s disturbing that complications affect 1 in 5 pregnancies, with hypertensive disorders, including preeclampsia, doubling in the last two decades. Yet there is no effective way to predict who will develop life-threatening complications. At Mirvie, we wake up every day to change this status quo, leading to the healthiest pregnancies possible.

Why purpose-built clinical data holds the key to unlock precision medicine

Maneesh: Bringing this shift is easier said than done. It takes a lot of resilience, time, and dollars to capture the data necessary and make the vision of precision medicine in pregnancy a reality. In your eyes, what makes companies stand out in this journey to bring this vision to fruition?

Vik: The startup world is brimming with brilliant entrepreneurs capable of disrupting the standard of care. However, earning the trust of scientists and clinicians relies on robust clinical evidence. At the heart of this is understanding biology and creating purpose-built, comprehensive and high-fidelity clinical data. While new approaches from the world of AI promise to accelerate our understanding of biology, and may accelerate clinical tests of that understanding, they do not substitute for robust clinical data and clinical evidence.

One frontier, which Mirvie is pioneering, is understanding the molecular features which contribute to risk, and designing assays which measure the subset of them that are most important reproducibly and reliably. Those assays are then subjected to rigorous clinical validation which establishes their diagnostic utility.

Maneesh: The biology of creating life is truly complex – where a single cell transforms into a human in nine months. The Mirvie team recognized that to uncover the mysteries behind pregnancy, we couldn’t rely on small-scale research with limited samples and disparate medical data, to truly understand patterns of what’s happening during pregnancy.

Why now is the time to bet on women’s health and pregnancy health

Maneesh: Oncology has received significant attention and investment, which has translated to tremendous progress and breakthroughs. Why do women’s health and pregnancy health represent a generational investment opportunity to both create societal change while capturing market share?

Vik: Lack of research and investment in pregnancy and women’s health have held these fields back, leaving U.S. pregnancy health in a state of crisis. We must act now to bring about the necessary change.

For Mirvie, the company is tackling a large unmet need with pregnancy health because there has been limited technology directed at understanding life-threatening complications. It’s one of the reasons that Foresite was so interested in investing in the company. We see a continuum of needs that stretches into the first few years of life where precision approaches will become increasingly relevant.

It’s exciting to be working with companies like Mirvie who truly have the power to transform maternal care and save the lives of mothers.

Maneesh: Pregnancy health is family health, as what happens during pregnancy can impact families over the course of a lifetime. For example, women who experience complications during pregnancy are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, mental health conditions and premature death, and children who are born preterm are at increased risk for numerous challenges across their lifespan. Prediction of disease, months in advance of symptoms, opens the window to prevention.

We’re honored to work with visionaries like Foresite Capital, who recognize the enormous untapped potential for new breakthroughs that address huge unmet medical needs like maternal health.

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