Evvy’s co-founder and CEO Priyanka Jain is tired of women being diagnosed on average four years later than men across at least 700 diseases. To fix the problem, she and her co-founder, Laine Bruzek, launched Evvy, a company focused on discovering and leveraging female-specific biomarkers. In July 2021, they launched the first at-home vaginal microbiome test to leverage metagenomic sequencing.
Priyanka Jain appeared on the podcast “Confidently Insecure” with host Kelsey Darragh on March 28 to talk about the gender health gap and destigmatizing the vagina.
“Bacterial vaginosis alone affects 30% of women every year, and I think all of us can agree that when these things are going on, it is really all you can think about,” Jain says. “Vaginal health really affects our quality of life, our mental health, our emotional health, our relational health. I was mind-blown that on top of the fact that these are incredibly prevalent and frustrating conditions, there’s all of this research showing the vaginal microbiome is then related to everything from fertility, to preterm birth, to cervical cancer progression, to STI [sexually transmitted infection] acquisition. I just could not believe that as a person with a vagina, I could not access this information on my own body. I couldn’t understand proactively and preventively what was going on.”
Jain wanted to know if there was anything healthwise she should be worried about or take action on. Jain says when it comes to overlooked signals in the female body that could give one a better sense of health and disease, vaginas are an important piece of the puzzle.
Evvy Answers Questions on the Vaginal Microbiome
“When it comes to microbiomes, generally we know there’s one in our gut. We know there’s one on our skin, in our mouths. It turns out there’s a microbiome in our vaginas too,” Jain explains. “And microbiome is really just a fancy word for the bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that live together on a certain part of your body.”
Jain says she sees the vagina and vaginal microbiome as the gateway between the outside world and women’s reproductive organs. “[Common conditions in the vaginal microbiome] are poorly researched and poorly understood,” Jain explains. “Even though it affects so many people and causes all of these expensive health outcomes, we still define bacterial vaginosis as an overgrowth of bacteria. It is completely nonspecific as to what is going on. We have not updated our clinical definition since we invented sequencing that could actually look at what’s going on.”
While up to 80% of women recur in these infection cycles, Jain says it’s time to stop throwing antibiotics at it and hoping something different grows back. “I think this is all insane and deserves way better data to help us understand in a much more intelligent and personalized way,” Jain declares. “So much of this is stuff we only started to discover five, 10, and 15 years ago.”
Jain says doctors are not to blame, since they haven’t had access to the tools or information regarding the vaginal microbiome.
“Weirdly, it’s been really ignored and it’s something we feel really strongly about: not only changing the clinical standards of care but also demystifying and destigmatizing it. Statistically, all of us have these problems, so we shouldn’t be scared to talk about it,” Jain adds. “We should be talking about it.”
Jain admits most male investors she’s talking to regarding Evvy have never heard about bacterial vaginosis. “I think we have to be talking about this on platforms like yours,” Jain says regarding her discussion on the “Confidently Insecure” podcast. “We have to be elevating these conditions so that we can finally get the investment and time that it deserves.”
Evvy’s Tests Offer Insight Into Vaginal Health Questions
On Evvy’s at-home testing kits, the packaging reads, “Open here to close the gender health gap.” Podcast host Darragh says even the packaging of the test offered her information she hadn’t heard despite having a vagina her entire life.
“The way we decided to start was to actually give women and people with vaginas access to this information directly. The standard of care hasn’t changed yet, and at the end of the day, people deserve to have the information around what’s going on in their bodies,” Jain says. “So we developed an at-home vaginal microbiome test. It’s the first test to use metagenomic sequencing. We use really good technology to make sure that we’re actually finding everything that’s present.”
Jain explains one of Evvy’s goals is to bring the best technology to the problem and start looking at the data at the most granular and specific level.
“You order the test, we ship it to you. You open it and take a Q-tip swab of your vagina — it’s easier than putting in a tampon — and you ship it back to us,” Jain says.
The test then goes to Evvy’s lab, which breaks down the results in a personalized report. “We take the information found in your vaginal microbiome and help put it all in context for you so you can understand everything that’s going on in your vagina, how it’s related to your health or health goals, and what you can do about it.”
Jain says the tests often lead to discussions about how patients can better advocate for themselves during a doctor’s appointment and with their partners.
“Your vaginal microbiome actually responds to changes you make,” Jain says. “When you change partners, birth control, diet, supplements, or medications, your vaginal microbiome responds. A lot of what we do is try to help people see over time how the decisions and interventions they’re making to improve their health are working or not. We’re all unique people and what works for you might be different than what works for me.”