Grants to USA, Canada, and International nonprofit and for-profit organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions to address women's health needs. Funding is intended for projects that promote innovation in women's healthcare. The focus of the funding is to advance bold ideas that address opportunities in the Opportunity Map, enhance overall funding and resources for women's health R&D, and demonstrate the effectiveness of investments in women's health R&D.
Women's health is currently an underserved area for innovation, facing disproportionately low R&D funding relative to its burden. As recently as 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) represented nearly 60% of funding for sexual and reproductive health R&D. While stakeholders are beginning to address innovation gaps in women's health, no coordinated agenda across sectors with a global focus exists to align their efforts. The result is less innovation in the women's health space and limited data to support business cases for new products.
To address this need, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health initiated an inclusive, consultative, cross-sector effort to generate a Women's Health Innovation Opportunity Map 2023 as a collaborative framework to advance women's health innovation. The Opportunity Map was created by the Innovation Equity Forum (IEF) - a group of 250 stakeholders in women's health from across sectors and over 50 countries. The aim of the IEF was to bring a broad range of multidisciplinary expertise from various levels and sectors of the biomedical enterprise to provide diverse viewpoints in order to develop an inclusive, globally-focused, and widely accepted Opportunity Map of topics in women's health R&D.
The Opportunity Map has three main components. First, it establishes broad topics of women's health R&D with unique challenges, needs, and goals. Topics fall into two categories:
- Cross-cutting topics include data and modeling, research design and methodologies, regulatory and science policy, innovation introduction, social and structural determinants, and training and careers.
- Issue-specific topics include communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases and chronic conditions, and female-specific conditions.
Second, each topic identifies leading opportunities based on their potential for impact, readiness to scale, innovation feasibility, focus on women's unmet health needs, and ability to improve health equity. Finally, example specific solution strategies articulate actionable ways to realize each opportunity and create impact within the next 15 years.
The Foundation is looking for proposals that address opportunities for the following topic areas in the Opportunity Map:
- Data and modeling – Collecting more granular data, strengthening capacity for sex- and gender-informed data collection, and filling critical data gaps.
- Research design and methodologies – Advancing sex- and gender-intentional research design, methods, and analysis.
- Regulatory and science policy – Implementing sex- and gender-intentional regulatory and science policy frameworks that promote the development of innovations that improve the health of women.
- Innovation Introduction – Strengthening the innovation ecosystem and pathways for women's health solutions to scale.
- Social and structural determinants – Including social determinants of health in R&D in women's health research agendas to develop more equitable and appropriate women's health products.
- Training and careers – Embedding a sex and gender lens throughout education and supporting women's career advancement to develop a workforce able to drive innovation in women's health.
- Communicable diseases – Evaluating the burden of infectious diseases and their direct and indirect costs, exploring associations between microbes and chronic conditions, and developing innovations for infections that disproportionately impact women and that can benefit pregnant women.
- Female-specific conditions – Researching the etiology and progression of gynecological, reproductive, maternal, and life stage conditions, supporting new methods for data collection and sharing, and developing innovations to prevent, diagnose, monitor and treat female-specific conditions.