Academia / Funding / Health / LGBTQ / Venture capital

An LGBTQ health initiative at Penn just launched a 5-year partnership with investing group Gaingels

Eidos LGBTQ+ Health Initiative will be connecting founders to research and academic resources to propel queer health-focused ventures.

Eidos' kickoff event in November 2022. (Courtesy photo)

This guest post is a part of Universities Month 2023 in’s editorial calendar.

LGBTQ-led startups make up a tiny percentage of the country’s investment dollars. And even when they do get funding, they may face a dearth of resources dedicated to their community’s needs.

A new initiative at the University of Pennsylvania will be working over the next five years to connect those founders to support.

About a year ago, Penn’s School of Nursing formed the Eidos LGBTQ+ Health Initiative, a group staffed by Senior Director Jessica Halem, other Penn faculty, and post-doc and graduate student researchers. The group’s goal is to work across schools at Penn to implement projects that promote health within queer populations.

A recent partnership with Gaingels will continue that work over the next five years in the VC space. Halem and other members of the Eidos group had been connected with the national, impact-focused venture group that invests in LGBTQ founders for a few years before joining Penn.

“When Eidos was announced, we looked at Gaingels, and it was like, ‘We’re both working in the same direction,'” Halem said.

Jessica Halem. (Courtesy photo)

For the next five years, Gaingels portfolio companies will be able to leverage academic, intellectual and research resources across Penn through the Eidos center, Halem said. They’ll be working with companies that address queer health, but that’s a broad scope; for example, a founder building a community platform for queer folks can certainly take advantage of the partnership, she said.

“Often, great ideas are proposed by researchers and entrepreneurs, and yet there are limited opportunities for collaboration and synergy,” said José Bauermeister, founding faculty director of Eidos, in a statement. “Through the Eidos-Gaingels partnership, we seek to support founders and entrepreneurs with in-depth LGBTQ+ health knowledge and research expertise, and accelerate the delivery of evidence-based strategies and innovative solutions for LGBTQ+ people.”

The partnership could work like this: A company in Gaingels’ portfolio might reach out to Eidos with data they’ve collected over a year of beta testing and ask for help measuring the impact they’re making. Halem and her team will connect the founders with someone at Penn — maybe a researcher or business professor — to help them understand and leverage that data for their business.

Halem said they expect they’ll be serving a wide range of companies and requests.

“The projects will be diverse, but the commonality will be, how can we help you quickly make an impact within the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ people?” she said.

Gaingels Partner Jake Prigoff noted in a statement that the research, discovery and evaluation abilities for early-stage startups are often out of reach, especially for queer founders addressing health issues — “yet they are often crucial for companies to show impact as they seek to grow in the marketplace,” he said.

Halem is hoping the partnership with Penn can bring resources outside of capital, like valuation analysis, insight on clinical trials or business advisors, to these startups. With the partnership just launching, the groups are hoping to launch the first round of projects in the spring.

“It’s not only going to be impactful for the startups, it’ll be fun for all of us at Penn and in Philadelphia,” Halem said. “And we really want to connect with the best Philadelphia has to offer, to show that Philadelphia is making an impact on LGBTQ health.”

Companies: University of Pennsylvania
Series: Universities Month 2023

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