Spotlight: Amanda French, Ferolyn Fellow

Unplanned pregnancies could someday be a thing of the past, thanks to Cadence, a company started by Amanda French, one of the new Ferolyn Fellows.

As a child, she knew she wanted to be in healthcare, potentially as a doctor – she loved to help people and had a knack for science and math, which was balanced with a passion for art.

But in high school, she discovered the fascinating field of health engineering after discussions with several physicians led her to realize that creating and designing medical devices was a better, more unique path to blending that talent for math and science with her love for creativity. That led her to study mechanical engineering at Duke, with the expectation that she would eventually work in medical devices.

Her first job after graduation was at Edwards Lifesciences, where coincidentally, Neil Zimmerman, another of the new Ferolyn fellows, also worked at the time. She later moved to a hearing aid startup, Earlens, in the Bay Area and then decided to join the Stanford Biodesign program to further her career in the field.

Founding a company based on an unmet need

At Stanford Biodesign, Amanda was teamed with Stanford neonatologist Janene Hogan, MD, and the pair became interested in better understanding the needs of mothers and women. While conducting observations in the neonatal ICU, the team saw a lot of gaps in both technology and basic health information regarding women’s reproductive health.

Upon learning that there are nearly one million unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. among women on birth control pills — most due to user error — Amanda and Janene saw an opportunity to use modern technology to empower women in their reproductive health, specifically to use contraceptives appropriately.

And thus Cadence was born.

The first pain point addressed by the startup is that 80 percent of women who miss at least one pill per month, due to stress, travel or other, reasons – with one out of 10 of experiencing an unintended pregnancy within a year. Cadence has developed a system and app to help reduce user error by providing education on contraception and personalized pregnancy risk, as the first step toward its end goal of becoming the go-to platform for women’s reproductive health needs.

The company created a pill case, the Smart Compact, which senses when each pill is taken. The data is automatically logged on the Cadence App, providing an accurate record of a woman’s pill history; thus keeping her on track, providing reminders, leading her through what to do if a dose is missed and offering reproductive health guidance.

The startup recently closed a pre-seed round led by Bolt, an investor and incubator, which allowed them to build the product and team and start introducing the Smart Compact, now in beta stage, to testers. “We have had of lot of interest and great response to our device, confirming that we are addressing women’s exact needs, which we are thrilled about,” Amanda said.

Joining the Ferolyn Fellowship

Amanda’s successful experience at Stanford Biodesign, where several past classmates also participated in the Ferolyn Fellowship, led her to her interest in the program.

She was delighted to be selected, and already, she has been impressed with her assigned mentor Surbhi Sarna, a perfect fit as an entrepreneur who has successfully built a team and company in the women’s healthcare space.

“I am really excited about the unique way this program supports us. I am looking forward to developing a leadership style that fits me as a new CEO and fortunate to have such experienced industry leaders mentoring me,” said Amanda. “We also have the opportunity to attend events that we otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to, including last month’s Phoenix conference.”

Outside of Cadence, Amanda enjoys working with organizations such as MedTech Women and the Stanford Biodesign Alumni Association. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, contemporary dance and traveling.

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