DotLab is a female-founded company commercializing the first-ever accurate, user-friendly, non-invasive endometriosis test, DotEndo. DotEndo measures disease-specific biomarkers to detect the presence of active endometriosis, and is the first innovation in endometriosis diagnostics in more than 100 years. We spoke with Heather Bowerman, DotLab’s CEO, about endometriosis, DotLab, and how women can better advocate for their health.
You founded DotLab to work towards gender equality in medical research. How did you decide on endometriosis as your first issue to address?
I was inspired by both the opportunity to positively impact patients—especially women suffering in silence—and by the scale of the problem. Endometriosis is a disease that affects an astounding 1 in 10 women worldwide, with symptoms including pelvic pain, cramping, abnormal menstruation and infertility. Despite the wide prevalence of the disease, many women remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and often miss days of school and work. Those who do eventually receive a diagnosis commonly experience a decade-long delay and see an average of five MDs in the process (Weintraub et al, 2014). This diagnostic odyssey has a significant impact on the trajectory of a woman’s life, and is a clear gap where innovative research on biomarkers can directly impact women’s health outcomes.
If a woman thinks she might be affected by endometriosis and is interested in DotEndo, what might she expect from the process?
DotEndo is the first ever non-invasive test for endometriosis—a welcome change that comes with comfort, privacy, and care. Today’s gold standard of diagnosis is laparoscopy, which is invasive, often leaves scars, and requires general anesthesia. The DotEndo test and experience is a true paradigm shift.
Through my work with Blood and Milk, I’ve spoken with so many women who struggled for years to get an accurate endometriosis diagnosis. Why is this disease so hard to diagnose, and how does DotEndo work to make the process more efficient?
Endometriosis is a complex, heterogeneous disease for which symptoms are not always consistent, but is associated with symptoms like pelvic pain and infertility. In today’s world with laparoscopy as the standard of care, patients who do not present with pelvic pain may be even more of a diagnostic challenge for physicians. In those cases, going through surgery to get a diagnosis can feel like an extreme option and therefore presents a barrier to diagnosis. Another major factor that contributes to the complexity is the deeply-ingrained narrative with a long history that women’s pain is rooted in psychology or hysteria.
How can women become stronger advocates for their own health and help push innovation and gender equality in medicine?
Advocacy in women’s health is catalyzed by a strong community. When women are equipped with the right information, they can ask the right questions of their physicians and directly impact their health journeys. With our DotEndo test, we want to help to streamline and reduce today’s outrageous ten-year delay to diagnosis of endometriosis. We imagine a world where endometriosis is diagnosed at its earliest stages, enabling women to achieve their highest potential. Hearing the stories and experiences of patients is a constant force of motivation for our work, and the opportunities across the push for equality in women’s health is vast.
What’s next for DotLab?
Stay tuned for announcements on our site. We can’t wait to bring DotEndo to the world after years of research & development and clinical studies.