Lia Diagnostics has received FDA approval to sell its flushable, biodegradable pregnancy test over the counter; product is the first of its kind
This is one Positive test for women.
Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of Lia, a pregnancy test that claims to be the world’s first flushable conception detector. Lia is the brainchild of Bethany Edwards and Anna Couturier Simpson, both Temple University alumna who co-founded the enterprise while pursuing graduate degrees in integrated product design at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The idea was [originally] to make more sustainable products,” says Edwards, chief exec of Lia Diagnostics. But upon noticing that there had been little form factor innovation when it came to pregnancy tests for over a decade, they started talking to other women about the problems they had with such kits. “We heard everything, from people hiding their tests in the trash to taking it in public rest rooms, or struggling to conceive and then having to see the tests in their trash,” she says. “The solution just wasn’t good for women.”
Hence, a test easily tossed into the plumbing. They began work on the project just over two years ago, crafting a product from plant fiber—akin to toilet paper— treated to resist water until the test is complete. “This wasn’t something that happened overnight,” says Edwards, who is in her mid 30s. “We’ve been spending years in R&D.”
Lia is expected to hit stores by the middle of next year at a price comparable to its traditional competitors. (A pack of 20 strips, for instance, retails for just $7.69 on Amazon.) They’ve also tied up with organizations like Planned Parent Global and Sos Grossesse so that a Lia kit is donated with a $10 donation pledge. The Philadelphia-based company also plans to expand the technology’s use to offer diagnoses for medical conditions like urinary tract infections.
While the founders won’t say how much they’ve spent developing Lia— beyond that it cost significantly less than it would have at a major consumer goods company— it’s already drawn interest from some quarters. Per Crunchbase, one backer is Robin Hood Ventures, a Philadelphia group of angel investors that typically puts up anything from $250,000 to $1 million. Cindy Whitehead, the feminist Pharma entrepreneur who found fame pioneering “female viagra,” is also a mentor.
Both women have long been fascinated with product design. Edwards had worked at an advertising firm as a creative director, while Couturier Simpson, who is 29 years old, had designed products at a jewelry maker. “I was always interested in being able to take concepts and ideas and turn them into tangible objects,” says Couturier Simpson, Lia’s chief product officer. “You can see what Apple’s done with baking in a brand and communication element at the very beginning.”
Getting the courage to start a business took a little while longer, though the two women found that entering an incubator and pitch competitions also helped. “Other people also believing in it was what gave us additional motivation,” Edwards says. “It’s not just ourselves or academia.”
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