Last year’s Zika crisis may not be making regular headlines these days, but the Zika virus remains a continuing health threat. According to the World Health Organization it is now categorized along the lines of Malaria or Yellow Fever. New challenges are arising for the families of babies born with microcephaly and other health problems due to the virus, while babies impacted by the ZIka virus continue to be born. There is a vaccine in development, and promising research to curtail the spread of the virus, but pregnant women in at risk areas still have to live with the daily fear that their unborn child will be infected by Zika.
Meg Wirth and Allison Cote founded Maternova to specialize in women’s health solutions. When the Zika crisis hit they realized that the world could not wait the potential years that it could take to bring a vaccine to market. Women and babies are the population most directly impacted by the consequences of the virus, at Maternova they knew that a viable everyday solution was needed to help women to continue to live their daily lives.
At a Zika Innovation Hackathon through CAMTech at Mass General Hospital the Maternova team was awarded initial funding to help launch NovaVeil. They then enlisted Alessandra Gold, a Brazilian-born, Miami-based award-winning designer to create a four piece capsule collection of mosquito repellent, yet fashionable, maternity clothing. In a sense the clothing will help to do during the day what mosquito netting does at night.
“There is a massive amount of literature on bed nets and protecting women and families at nighttime from Malaria, but there was very little out there about protection during the daytime. In part that’s because this is a brand new technology.”
– Meg Wirth, Co-Founder of Maternova
Using a non-permethrin nano-technology patented in Europe, the insect repellent is embedded into the textile of the garments on a molecular level. The NovaVeil collection is launching with a maternity line that features a dress, a cardigan with a hood, a scarf, and leggings, all designed to be comfortably worn in warm climates. The Aedes mosquitos, which are the type of mosquito that transmit Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya, bite during the day, so not only do the NovaVeil garments provide protection from the Zika virus, but from other insect born illnesses such as Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya, and even lyme disease.
The goal was to appeal to and be able to reach women across the economic spectrum, so sales of NovaVeil garments in high-end areas will help to subsidizes providing garments in lower-income areas. It turns out that the cost per wear of the clothing, which remains effective through 50 wash cycles (and when tested was still 60% effective after 90 washes) will be less expensive than it would be to apply insect repellent every day.
Maternova partnered with Americares by adding a NovaVeil maternity top to anti-Zika mother kits they were already giving to their pregnant patients at a health clinic in El Salvador. The goal now is to continue to offer the NovaVeil line at either no cost or low-cost to distribution partners in Latin America in hopes of protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable women, while widening distribution so that pregnant women everywhere can feel safe from the threat of Zika in their everyday lives. My bet is that, before long, NovaVeil fashionable mosquito repellent apparel will be in high demand for a broader clientele such as aid workers, travelers, and journalists.
I became an investor in NovaVeil when Maternova announced that it was using the crowdfunding-investment platform Republic to bring NovaVeil apparel to market. Republic enables anyone to invest in socially driven companies not matter how much or how little one has to give. Through Republic Maternova raised over 100% of their goal and fully funded the launch of NovaVeil. I felt strongly that I wanted to support Maternova as a local, social enterprise, founded by women, and dedicated to improving the lives of women around the world.
When women help women helping other women, the world becomes a better place for us all.